Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and Baby Fox Academy Celebrate Early Learning

The Giving Coast

Pictured: Lorrie Young, with the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota enjoys playing with the children of Baby Fox Academy during NAEYCs Week of the Young Child. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

Last week, child care centers across the country celebrated The Week of the Young Child™. This annual celebration is meant to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.

Like many businesses during the pandemic, child care centers have struggled. Some closed, others just got by, barely able to afford to pay employees even minimum wage. To support a transformational shift in the system of early learning, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation has launched the Barancik Early Learning Initiative (BELI). According to Kelly Romanoff, Innovation and Impact Officer for Barancik Foundation, “The initiative’s priorities focus on workforce recruitment and retention, and the celebration of high-quality child care centers.” Baby Fox Academy, a Sarasota preschool owned and operated by Laurie McCracken, is an excellent example of high-quality child care.

Specializing in play-based learning, Baby Fox Academy offers a safe nurturing environment for children to learn and grow. “You won’t find worksheets or workbooks here, but there is a lot of structure involved in our daily routine,” states McCracken. “Kids need to attach meaning to their learning. Using worksheets may be easier but children don’t learn how to regulate themselves and self-select. Sensory play builds synapses in the brain. Children who participate in this early on are more able to focus and function as they grow.”

Barancik’s initiative is working with the Early Coalition of Sarasota County in the coming months to provide retention incentives for childcare teachers who have stuck through these difficult years. The initiative will also kick off a region-wide teacher recruitment campaign to attract more individuals to the sector.

In honor of last week's celebration, Baby Fox Academy hosted a Work Together Wednesday event to spotlight why support is needed to help build back high-quality early childhood programs better and stronger. McCracken hopes to open more centers in the future. "Our work is so important," she says. "After all, we are growing our future doctors, teachers and lawyers. Our little people will become big people soon."

Pictured: Lorrie Young, with the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota enjoys playing with the children of Baby Fox Academy during NAEYCs Week of the Young Child. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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