June 14, 2018

Werklund School instructor acknowledged for outstanding academic achievement

Calgary Award winner Cynthia Prasow shares her thoughts on education
Cynthia Prasow
Cynthia Prasow

At the 2018 Calgary Awards, Cynthia Prasow was recognized for her outstanding academic achievement and for her work enhancing learning opportunities for Calgarians. Her research brings together faculty, schools and community. Prasow serves as the Director of Student Experiences in the Werklund School of Education’s undergraduate program and is recognized as an expert in early childhood education. In this Q & A, Prasow discusses how she views education, the role stakeholders play and the future direction of education in Alberta.

Why is early childhood education so important?

Early childhood, ages 0-8 are critical years in a child’s development. It is a time of brain development, cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. Therefore, it is imperative that young children be provided with play based, engaging and appropriate activities that contribute to the development of these areas. Children need to be in environments that are conducive to learning and promoting their development. The early years lay the foundation for the future of young children and therefore it is our obligation, at all levels of education and government that we ensure quality programs, services and support for young children. This will be a benefit for these children and our greater society in later years and beyond.

What is your personal education philosophy?

My philosophy to education stems from my beliefs in early childhood learning that as a teacher we must:

  • Create meaningful and complex learning environments that engage children in holistic, interdisciplinary and integrative approaches to learning.
  • Be responsive to the diverse ways children create and express understanding of their world and attentive to all aspects of their development (social, cognitive, emotional, physical, cultural).
  • Provide an environment for children that supports a varied, rich, guided and spontaneous opportunities for questioning, conversation, exploration and imaginative play.

What role does the community play in education?

  • Parents are the best advocates for their children and therefore it is important that they stay informed as to what is going on in schools and in the community and greater province with respect to education.
  • In this rapidly changing world the health care providers also play an important role in educating parents about the nutrition, health and wellness of children and the importance of staying well not only physically but mentally.
  • The family (there are many definitions of family) has an integral role in education. In this very rapidly changing world, the stability of family can support and provide consistency for children of all ages. Children need to have unconditional love, a role model to guide and communicate with them particularly at critical points in their lives.

What advice would you give to parents to ensure their child is successful in school?

  • Take an interest in all aspects of their child’s education and other aspects of their life. However, refrain from being a ‘helicopter parent’ or overbearing, controlling of their child. Allow them to be children and have opportunities to play and not always be programmed in so many activities that they are unable to play by themselves or with friends. Create an environment for children that allows them to learn to make decisions, problem solve and be confident when interacting with their peers and adults on a day to day basis.
  • Being supportive of their child and therefore attending school events, volunteering in the school if appropriate.
  • Listen to the talk that goes on and be able to engage in conversation with their children about what they are doing in school, outside of school. Support their learning at home in a way that allows them to do the work but have guidance if necessary.
  • In this world of technology, ensure children are taking time to read books and engage in other activities besides using electronic devices. I am very concerned about the use of devices as a substitute for communicating with children at a dinner table and in public settings. This appears to be on the increase as parents are so involved with their work and extra curricular activities.

In your opinion, what does, or should, the future of education look like in Alberta?

  • In this rapidly changing world technology is impacting education tremendously in both a positive and not so positive ways. With technology, education is more accessible therefore, more diverse and remote populations can participate in educational opportunities. People who may not otherwise be able to access education can do so more easily through on line courses. Therefore increased accessibility to education as an online way of learning.
  • However, technology is also impacting our society in ways that is changing how we interact with people. There is less opportunity to socialize in face to face conversations. Children miss many of the skills they could/should be getting when they are focused on devices as for a greater portion of their day. (communication and socialization skills, fine motor skills outside of working with devices, outdoor opportunities to ensure health and wellness)

Therefore, in a fast paced society we need to examine what are the important skills for the next generation of learners: besides technological literacies, we need to continue to provide opportunities to develop the arts, written and spoken literacies to name a few. With the increased diverse population we need to address how to ensure that all levels of diversity have access to education. Our education should ensure that children/students are able to be critical thinkers, instilled with the ability to question, understand our world globally to be good citizens for the next generation.