Education

All children need a head start. These photos highlight the wonder of early learning.

Wonder Years: 'Starting Ahead'

'Starting Ahead' is an exhibition of 26 artworks created by the photojournalists of Iris PhotoCollective, André Chung, C.W. Griffin and Carl Juste, and curated by Yolanda Sanchez, former director of Airport Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs.
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'Starting Ahead' is an exhibition of 26 artworks created by the photojournalists of Iris PhotoCollective, André Chung, C.W. Griffin and Carl Juste, and curated by Yolanda Sanchez, former director of Airport Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs.

Learning starts at the beginning, from birth, before the first word memories are formed, because 85 percent of a child’s brain growth happens by the age of 3.

“Starting Ahead” is an exhibition of 26 artworks created by the photojournalists of Iris PhotoCollective, André Chung, C.W. Griffin and Carl Juste, and curated by Yolanda Sanchez, former director of Airport Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs. It exemplifies the principles of photojournalism: Do not engage with the subjects to bias the image, and remain impartial to best convey the truth, among others. It was conceived in collaboration with the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe; The Children’s Movement of Florida; and Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs, Miami International Airport; to examine and document groundbreaking techniques and best practices in early childhood education.

The “wonder years” begin at birth. Getting a head start in early childhood education is imperative for the success of the people who make up our society. It is imperative that we support programs that support America’s continued viability.

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Debbie School student Christopher Pavicic holds on to his favorite book. Reading at the grade level by the third grade can sure success in school and in later life. According to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe: “Early experiences with books lay the foundation for literacy development and books are the window to the world. Reading just 15 minutes a day to a child enhances school readiness.” CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF / IRIS PHOTOCOLLECTIVE

In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13-to-1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is one book to 300 children. By age 4, children from language-rich environments have heard about 30 million words more than have children from language-poor environments. Florida ranks 37th in the nation in per-student spending for pre-K children, and the average wage of an early learning teacher is $9 per hour. These are just a few statistics provided by Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe Senior Vice President Pamela Hollingsworth, M.Ed. These numbers do not reflect the statement, “children first,” often repeated by politicians. Increasing programs that offer extensive health coverage for low-income families and encourage physical and cognitive development is essential.

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Toddlers attending Sheyes of Miami Learning Center #3 enjoy the outside playground during recess. According to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe: “The play of young children provides wonderful opportunities for fun, spontaneity and social interaction.” CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF / IRIS PHOTOCOLLECTIVE

Iris PhotoCollective was commissioned to produce this exhibition by Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs, Miami International Airport, not only because they value and understand the importance of visual reportage, but more importantly, they also understand the value of early education. The aim was to put faces and names to advanced early-learning initiatives. Trust and teaching go hand in hand. Male role models are important for preschoolers, yet only one in every 100 teachers are male. Children need to learn through their own efforts, but teachers provide guidance and encouragement for children as they learn.

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Exploration Station teacher Alfredo “Mr. Fred” Paredes, center, is one of the few male teachers in early childhood development. At Exploration Station, he is currently the only man. Students need to see themselves modeled at school, and male teachers add to a more diverse and dynamic environment. Paredes’ gentle manner is well received, and their excitement is evident, even before breakfast is served. Student Gabriana Gonzalez, right, reacts with excitement from the instruction from Paredes. According to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe: “Trust and teaching go hand in hand. Male role models are important for preschoolers, yet only 1 in 100 teachers are male.” ANDRE CHUNG IRIS PHOTOCOLLECTIVE

Many preschool classrooms are staffed with poorly trained and underpaid teachers, according to Dr. Hollingsworth. Having well-paid, diverse teachers, and children who receive an excellent education, benefits all members of society — the statistics and studies that support this statement are available to all who want to learn more. The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and the Children’s Movement of Florida are great places to start.

If you are passing through Miami International Airport, take a moment and visit “Starting Ahead” in the North Terminal near Gate D31. See and learn how innovations in early-childhood curricula are changing our community’s educational landscape, and how children are learning more in their “wonder years.”

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