Toddler Language Project
Morningside PlayCare and our expanding team of educators, cultural leaders, and scholars are at the leading edge of a major shift in American foreign language education policy and practice. Many are aware of an emerging movement in the public and private education sectors toward the establishment of dual-language immersion programs. Some of you are also aware of the Million Strong Initiative, which aims to have one million Americans studying Mandarin by 2020. And much attention has been devoted to the recent research on the young brain and its jaw-dropping capacity to acquire language.
Less visible are the efforts of those in the research sectors to get in front of this movement as it relates specifically to two areas in particular: early-childhood Mandarin immersion and early childhood multilingualism.
In the fields of neuroscience, linguistics, foreign language education, and early childhood bilingual education, scholars are working to produce the assessment tools, databases, and models necessary to build a body of research that will empower educators and policymakers to provide this sector of our field, with policy guidance, best practices, strategies, and curriculum.
As educators and community leaders, the team of Morningside PlayCare advisors is committed not only to supporting the Million Strong initiative, but also to achieving an American citizenry that goes beyond the goal of bilingualism to that of multilingualism! We believe early-childhood language immersion is key to achieving this goal and has the capacity to create a great leap forward.
We are creating a generation of American youth and Chinese teachers who are equipped to serve as bridge builders for humanity - human to human and human to nature. We deliver multilingualism, cross-cultural understanding, the capacity for innovative thinking, a foundation for crafting practical spiritual lives, the tools of inquiry, and the leadership and follow-ship skills of community building.
If our mission and vision resonates with you, we invite you to reach out to us to discuss how you can help. We encourage families from diverse backgrounds to submit applications for their young children. We invite Chinese education majors to internship with us.
A community with a shared vision, intention, and a spirit of wonder is unlimited in its potential to impact the world.
Where can I learn more about related research?
Our work build upon existing research on the neurology behind early-childhood language acquisition, as well as the impact of multilingualism and dual-language immersion on childhood cognitive development. We discuss the research at our information sessions. Below is a video and an article which parents have found to be particularly informative.
What is the purpose of this research project?
To contribute to the knowledge base on early-childhood language acquisition, immersion education, and multilingualism.
How will the research goals be accomplished?
We will accomplish this goal by observing young children and staff in 10 community-based child-care lab programs, documenting methods and outcomes, establishing a database, testing instruments, making recommendations for practice and further research, and publishing our findings.
What is the first host program?
Morningside PlayCare, Inc. currently hosts the first such model lab. It is an independent initiative licensed by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services. Founded by parent, scholar, former school administrator, and social entrepreneur Dr. Gail Foster, Morningside PlayCare is ideally suited to host the pilot project. MPC is located in Morningside Heights, three blocks from Teachers College, its primary staffing resource, and a half mile from both Bank Street School of Education and the City College of New York. Morningside PlayCare was established with the support and encouragement from several institutions currently serving it in an advisory capacity: the Asia Society, the Chinese American Planning Council, NYU Project Developing Chinese Language Learners, Teachers College faculty, Harlem Commonwealth Council, Watson Rice, Teamsters Local 808, Flying Deer Nature Center, and Cambria Center for the Gifted. For more information on Morningside PlayCare’s curriculum, visit morningsideplaycare.com.
Are there other host programs in the pilot stage?
It is our intention to establish a total of three host programs during our first few years. Other programs under development will be announced as they become formally linked to the project.
What is licensed home-based childcare?
Licensed home-based childcare, formally known as Group Family Day Care Homes, provides care for 7 to 12 infants and/or preschoolers in a residence. These childcare providers are regulated by the state of New York and, like other agencies responsible for children, are required to meet certain educational and professional standards. They are a leading resource for childcare and preschool education throughout the city and include both sole proprietors and corporate entities.
How will children be selected for participation?
Selection of children will be based upon factors related to age, gender, socio-economic background, heritage language, and scheduling. The project design will dictate the sample. Only parents who subscribe to the mission and design of the host program should apply.
What credentials does the Chair bring to this project?
Dr. Gail Foster is a graduate of Columbia University's Teachers College and has more than 20 years' experience in the field of education, including service as a school administrator, research scholar, nonprofit administrator, teacher trainer, and board member on the Council on American Private Education and the MacDuffie School. As a research scholar at the RAND Corporation, the Institute for Independent Education, CUNY, and the Toussaint Institute, she published on the power of inquiry-based learning, alternative approaches to serving black boys with special needs, and community-based teacher-founded educational enterprises. She considers her most important research to be that in which she documented the capacity of teacher/moms, in the face of inadequate educational options, to intuitively design models of education and childcare that speak directly to unmet needs in their communities. In this way, she believes, teacher/moms are leading the field.
During the course of her 20-year career, Dr. Foster has won numerous civic awards and a gubernatorial citation, as well as an invitation to the White House for developing programs that are responsive to parents, place children at the center, and serve as models for education practitioners and policymakers at the leading edge.
Why participate in this project?
Parents choosing to apply should do so first and foremost because of their interest in the mission and design of the host program. There will be a modest tuition subsidy, as an incentive. Upon completion of the program, considerable assistance will be provided to parents in securing seats in elementary schools that will continue to build children's Mandarin literacy and support the acquisition of multilingualism. As with all good early-childhood programs, children’s progress will be documented and assessment results provided to parents. Beyond that, the data collected will be of primary benefit to educators, scholars, and policymakers, toward the goal of establishing a set of best practices benefiting all children in immersion programs. Families will be given access to any significant findings during the course of the research that may relate to their willingness to continue participation.
What are the expectations for family commitment?
Commitments from families are the same as they would be in any group childcare program, nursery, or private school. Parents are expected to meet all their programmatic and fiduciary responsibilities. Enrollment is a commitment to target language immersion over the longterm. The study is longitudinal. We will be interested in following children’s academic careers, social development, and adult outcomes.
What are the tuition costs?
Morningside PlayCare now operates a year-round program. Children may attend for a full-day or for a morning or afternoon session. Please go to the host program Admissions page for information on tuition rates. Children arriving in the afternoon may range in age from 2.5 years to 5 years.
What are your research methods?
Because the primary purpose for children’s enrollment in this program is to participate in a nurturing play and learning environment in which they can acquire the Mandarin language, our research methods will be mostly invisible to children. Documentation will be non-invasive and non-disruptive of their daily experiences. Graduate students and teachers will collect data using observation and video and audio recording, as well as standardized, age-appropriate assessment tools and other methods traditionally used in educational research. As with any established early-childhood program, parents will be provided with regular progress reports.
What about confidentiality?
The confidentiality of student records will be maintained as expected in any school or childcare program, and as required by law. Participating parents will be required to grant written permission for data to be shared with other scholars and educators as part of the project.
How will the Wait-List be handled?
We do not currently have a wait-list. We are beginning our third round of enrollment. When we establish a wait-list again, our wait-list policy will be published.