Global Health Nursing Conference 2016

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On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, I attended the Global Health Nursing Conference held at the University of Toronto, hosted by the Nursing Undergraduate Society at UofT. The purpose and the theme of the conference this year was to shed light on Refugee and Immigrant Health.

This year’s conference is particularly poignant due to the current social climate regarding the war conflicts that have started occurring in 2011 (and are still ongoing) within Syria, and the large influx of Syrian refugees within Canadian borders. Throughout this night, we explored topics related to refugee and immigrant health, and ways in which nurses play a significant role in facilitating access to safe and appropriate for a vulnerable population. The wide variety of panelists, speakers, and session facilitators encompassed a diverse group of registered nurses [RNs] and nurse practitioners [NPs] from a variety of different global health backgrounds. They offered their experiences and perspectives on global health, the impact that nurses can create in health care on a global scale, and the types of work in which nurses can play a part in on an international health care level.

This event garnered significant attention from a variety of different undergraduate nursing students. The evening was comprised of attendees from UofT’s second-entry BScN program, Ryerson’s BScN program, Nippissing, York, etc. It was refreshing to see variety in different nursing backgrounds, making it an optimal night for opportunities to network, meet new people, and make new nursing friends!

The first part of the evening began with a panel of four RN speakers with diverse careers within global health. Some of them worked in various acute care and community health settings in different parts of the world (i.e Sudan, Ethiopa, Sierra Leone), implementing global health initiatives such as surgical programs, vaccination clinics, maternal health education, etc. Some of them worked within the local community (i.e Women’s College Hospital), addressing refugee and immigrant health needs and concerns in the Greater Toronto Area. Having these varied experiences and backgrounds in nursing come to light truly widened perspectives and opened many minds. The nursing students in attendance, a majority of whom have yet to have any solid exposure to global health nursing, were able to think of adequate health care outside of a framework that is well-resourced, highly affluent, and well-supported by a competent government structure. We were forced to think critically about what health care and health care delivery looks like in various populations and cultures, and how we – as Canadian nurses – can use our influence to affect change, in order to improve global health outcomes. Moreover, we also had the opportunity to think critically about how to address global health issues within our own local community. Various speakers spoke about what immigrants – specifically refugees – experience, in terms of health services, once on Canadian soil. We discussed barriers they often face to receiving appropriate care, such as a lack of adequate health care insurance coverage and a lack of unfamiliarity in terms of navigating a new system. The panelists did a fantastic job in articulating that our roles as nurses are to ensure that immigrants and refugees receive a care that is reflective of our health care system’s values and beliefs – that is, a care that is individualized, patient and family-centred, and comprehensive.

 A highlighted global health organization that was brought to attention during this period of the evening was Medicins Sans Frontieres [MSF]/Doctors Without Borders. A number of the RN panelists discussed their own experience in working with this organization and how MSF carries out various global health initiatives in a number of resource deficient countries. The purpose of MSF is to provide medical support and services where it is most needed on a global scale, and to ensure that health care systems and organizations are well-supported and have sufficient resources to deliver adequate care across boarders. More information on MSF and their work, as well as how to get involved, can be found on:

Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders

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The next portion of the evening was a dinner and Social, where we got to engage with the founders of the company iamsick.ca. iamsick.ca is a company that has created a technology platform in the form of an app and a website, to help facilitate access and equity to adequate health services in your own area. They have developed a system whereby one is able to access the most appropriate health care provider, for their specific needs, online. Furthermore, through this system, they are able to minimize things such as emergency visits, wait times, etc., as it specifically matches the individual’s health need with the specific health service and provider that addresses that need. iamsick.ca is a company that began at UofT and has grown over the last four years, with a large number of consumers that have been helped through its services. They work directly with healthcare providers and organizations to ensure that the link between patient and provider is more effectively established. iamsick.ca ensures that health needs do not go unaddressed and are addressed appropriately. For more information on iamsick.ca, please visit:

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The last portion of the evening involved Breakout Sessions, from which students were to choose whichever session they would like to partake in, to develop more knowledge in more specific niches of global health nursing. I chose to take part in the Sick Kids International Paediatric Global Health session, due to my interests in maternal and paediatric health. In this last hour of the evening, the Nursing Manager and the Advanced Nursing Practice Educator from Sick Kids International and Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health spoke about paediatric health and nursing care on a global scale. They spoke about their past, present, and future projects and global health initiatives to address gaps in international paediatric care. A significant gap that they have found in terms of global child health is that nurses internationally lack the advanced competencies of paediatric nursing care, making it difficult for them to deliver the care that their country’s paediatric population requires. Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health has taken steps towards developing a project that educates nurses abroad about paediatric nursing and paediatric care, in order to empower that country’s health care providers. This project has been a focus for a large part of their work and they hope to continue educating various nurses in various parts of the world, to ensure they receive adequate paediatric nursing education and training. For more information on Sick Kids Centre for Global Child Health, and to learn more about their work, please visit:

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The Hospital for Sick Children – The Centre for Global Child Health

Needless to say, the night was successful and the nursing students in attendance learned a lot about global health and how nursing plays a pivotal role in global health. With Canadian nursing school curriculums having a strong focus on nursing in the local and national community, there is a significant lack in education about the work nurses do on an international and global scale. This conference has definitely enabled nursing students across GTA to develop their knowledge and awareness in global health nursing, and has inspired us to build careers built on the foundation of community health development alongside with acute care development.

The Secret Life of Milk Bags

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Have you ever wondered what you could do with a milk bag? You know, those multicoloured bags that hold our milk. Well they can also hold a person, that is if you weave above 500 of them together. The School of Early Childhood Studies held an event this past week where I was able to do just that. I came together with other nutrition students and faculty, early childhood education students, and parents and children from the Early Learning Centre to turn old milk bags into mats and mattresses of a different kind.

MILKBAGSunlimited is an organization that works with schools and other institutions and individuals to create bedding and other valuable items out of old milk bags and donates them to people all over the world who need them. Working with donated milk bags that are durable, washable, don’t retain moisture, and will last for up to 25 years is not only economical but it is also environmentally conscious. These milk bags would have regularly ended up in landfills poisoning our earth and now they are providing comfort to someone who may have only a piece of cardboard to sleep on. MILKBAGSunlimited estimates that they have saved 5.7 million milk bags from landfills and created 7200 mats out of them.

MILKBAGSunlimited not only provides mats but they also collect supplies such as wheelchairs, crutches, school materials, toys, and tools and send them all over the world. What I found to be very interesting is that the mats are used as packing material, they serve a dual purpose, to protect and insulate the packing crates and to be used as a mattress at their destination. On top of all this MILKBAGSunlimited provides an opportunity for micro-entrepreneurship. They provide the supplies so that individuals in communities around the world can make their own products and sell them within their countries. This provides an opportunity for people who might otherwise not have the resources or occasion to earn an income. This allows these communities to prosper and the individuals who live there to buy food, clothing, and other necessities.

I was delighted when I heard that there was an opportunity to take some time out of my study schedule to weave together some old milk bags. It sounds strange but it’s actually quite fun and a bit of a workout. What was even more beneficial for me was getting a chance to work with the kids from the Early Learning Centre. I believe that children need a chance to learn new skills and be exposed to different kinds of work. Even though they probably had no idea why we were tying a bunch of milk bags together they got the opportunity to do something new with their hands which is very important. Kids need to see that there are different ways to learn even if they don’t see it that way, these kinds of experiences can be very formative for their brains. Additionally, being able to socialize with people who they don’t know will help them to grow.

After all the mats were finished being woven together I was given one to give away to someone who is experiencing homelessness. I regularly walk home from school and so I was sure I would find someone to give my mat to, but because of the extreme cold I had trouble. However, a few days later I was walking down Yonge Street and saw a man with his dog sitting on the street. Thankfully I had decided to try again to give the mat away that day. When I went up to him, a little nervousness in my step because I know if I were him it would be strange to have some random person come up to me and ask if I wanted some mat they made out of milk bags. After I explained what it was, he decided to keep the mat and he unrolled it and gave it to his dog to sleep on instead of using it for himself.

This whole experience made my heart feel a little lighter, but while I was walking I noticed more and more people experiencing homelessness that could have used my mat which made me sad. I found myself saying “damn I could’ve given it to that person too or that person”. It made me realize just how fortunate I am and it instilled some fear into my heart and mind. I don’t know how people who live on the street handle the stress, I can barely deal with assignments let alone not having a room of my own. I sometimes hear people comment about how disgusting homeless people are and how they are a waste and this rips my heart up because what if that were them? What if they had nowhere to go, would they want to be called disgusting? There are so many factors that lead into homelessness and so many things that come out of it that make it extremely difficult to remove oneself from it. People experiencing homelessness do not deserve to be treated as someone lesser, they are just as important to our world as we are. I feel that sometimes people create a “them and us” attitude when it comes to homelessness when it should really just be us. We are all responsible for homelessness and we can all do something about it. We should not “other” homeless people, they are a part of our society, and they are a part of us.

PedNIG Paediatric Nursing Skills Workshop: March 2016

On Saturday, March 05, 2016, I had the privilege of attending the Paediatric Skills Workshop hosted by the Paediatric Nursing Interest Group (PedNIG) of RNAO. The event was held at McMaster Medical Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. A large group of nursing students from nursing schools across Ontario eagerly attended the event, hoping to learn something new about the field of paediatrics. The room was filled with excited and anxious nursing students, waiting to hear from respectable and established paediatric registered nurses, hoping to pick their brains and learn some skills of the trade.

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The day began with open remarks from PedNIG RNAO representatives and executives, outlining the agenda for the day. The line up of speakers and presenters proved to be very exciting for the students, with a wide variety of speakers – from professionals who have been in practice for 20+ years, to new graduates who are all to familiar with the feelings of the students in the room. It was interesting to see the wide rang of experiences come together and speak about Paediatric nursing through different yet similar lenses. Each speaker and presented provided different perspectives and illustrated different ways of approaching this practice through their individualized experiences.

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The morning progressed with starting by learning how to complete a head-to-toe assessment of the paediatric population. We analyzed the process of how to conduct various health assessments in children ages 0-18 years of age, and how to act on complications found during certain assessments. It was a comprehensive review of the anatomy and physiology of the paediatric population that touched on key concepts and skills in paediatric nursing.

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The next session that followed was an overview of medication administration and dosage calculation for the paediatric population. Through this session, nursing students learned about different forms of administrating certain medications with various paediatric patients. We learned about how to assess for any signs and symptoms, how to assess for any adverse effects/toxic effects, etc. We also learned how to calculate the appropriate dosage of medication for paediatric patients depending on their weight and their condition. Students were attentive, actively participating, and collaborative with their peers throughout the entire session.

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The morning concluded by learning about paediatric mental health. This was a very new topic introduced to the practice of paediatric nursing, as mental health – up until recently – was not a standard assessment practiced in medicine. With increasing demands of putting more of a focus on mental health within health care, the paediatric population has proven to be one of the most vulnerable populations for instability in mental health. Through this particular session, we learned why exactly that is and certain influencing factors that affect the mental health of children. We learned what kinds of plans of action and intervention that paediatric nurses can take, in order to ensure that our patient population has a cohesive mental health. We learned about the importance of providing family-centred care and patient-centred care, and how we – as nurses – can play an important role as a source of support for our patients and their families.

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Following the morning’s workshop sessions, a lunch break ensued and afterwards, the afternoon’s session began. The afternoon’s session covered important topics in the field of paediatric nursing such as “Hot Topics in Paediatrics,” covering key illnesses and complications amongst the paediatric population (i.e Asthma, Type I Diabetes, pain). Following the Hot Topics session, a panel of esteemed professionals in the field conducted a Questions and Answers session with the students. This proved to be the highlight of the entire event, as students eagerly asked questions about the field and how to pursue a career in paediatrics as nurse to experienced professionals. Students asked questions such as:

“How do I gain experience in paediatrics as a student?”

“What makes a resume outstanding?”

“How can we maximize our experience in our clinical placements?”

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The panel of esteemed professionals were all too welcoming and eager to answer any inquiries and concerns that the students had. They answered with a high level of efficiency and conviction. The students were very receptive to the replies and very eager to participate in the discussions that were facilitated through the Q&A panel. This last session proved to be the most exciting aspect of the entire event and was a good way to end the day.

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Needless to say, the entire event proved to be very useful and very interactive for both the student attendees and the event hosts. The workshop was able to enhance the professional development of nursing students eager to build a career in paediatrics in a very significant way. The response to the various sessions held throughout the day were quite positive and enabled PedNIG – RNAO to be hopeful for future sessions. The event overall proved to be a huge success and attendees – myself included – left learning something new and feeling one step closer to their goals of becoming paediatrics nurses.

October is Child Abuse Prevention Month

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Fittingly, as I am a Child and Youth Care student, my first post will be child related.

A lot of us are familiar with ribbon campaigns and what some ribbon colours symbolize for example, one of the more famous ones is the pink ribbon and breast cancer awareness. But have you ever come across the purple ribbon?

History of Child Abuse Prevention Month:

First things first, to eliminate confusion, Child Abuse Prevention Month is April in the United States. Ours here in the Great White North is October.

Anyway, continuing on, the purple ribbon symbolizes awareness for various things such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Epilepsy, Lupus or ADHD, among many others. In the month of October however, it symbolizes awareness for Child Abuse Prevention. This matter directly affects some of our FCS programs such as Early Childhood Studies, Child and Youth Care, and Social Work (depending on what direction you go, I guess) so I believe it is important that we take a moment to familiarize ourselves.

According to Durham Children’s Aid Society, the use of the purple ribbon to signify Child Abuse Prevention Month was first started by them 23 years ago and then was adopted by organizations across Canada.

Signs of Child Abuse or Neglect:

There are many different ways in which children show signs that they’ve been harmed or neglected.

Physical Harm

Physical harm is a little more obvious than other types of harm because the evidence is on the child. Other than physical or internal injuries, physical harm can also be when there is inadequate child supervision, protection or care.

Signs of physical harm includes various injuries, inconsistent explanations as to how the child received the injuries, flinching when touched unexpectedly, extreme aggression or withdrawal, or wariness of adults.

Emotional Harm

Emotional harm is one of the most difficult types of harm to identify and prove. It happens when a child is treated in such a negative way that their self-esteem is severely impacted. It also includes the lack of a nurturing environment and exposure to conflict, abuse, or violence.

Signs of emotional harm include severe depression, anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, attention seeking, bed-wetting, or self destructive or aggressive behaviour.

Sexual Harm

Sexual harm is not only the sexual exploitation of a child but it is also when the person having charge of the child is aware or should be aware of the possibility of sexual molestation or exploitation by another person and they are unable to protect them.

Signs of sexual harm include age-inappropriate play, unusual or excessive itching in the genital or anal area, injuries to said area, displaying explicit acts, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge, or seductive behaviour.

Neglect

The origin of neglect usually stems from lack of knowledge of appropriate care for children or the inability to provide for a child that has special medical, mental, emotional or developmental needs that require more care, service or treatment.

Signs of neglect include poor hygiene, unattended physical problems or medical needs, consistent lack of supervision or lunch, delinquent acts or alcohol or drug abuse, truancy, inappropriate clothing for weather or dirty clothing.

For more in-depth information on the different types of harm please visit: http://www.fcsgw.org/protecting-children/types-of-abuse/

What to do if you Suspect Abuse or Neglect:

Depending on what program you are in, you may already be familiar with the term “Duty to Report. For those of you who don’t know, in short Duty to Report means that we have an obligation to report suspected child abuse or neglect. To whom you report to first, may depend on the situation, for example, if I were working in the field I would most likely tell my supervisor first and with his or her support I will then make a call to Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Ultimately, you would need to contact the proper authorities.

There are these public misconceptions that Children’s Aid does nothing more than take away peoples’ children however that’s wrong. In 2013, 97% of CAS investigations ended with children staying with their families. Surprising right? There is a new focus on in-home, early intervention services, which is based on the recognition that caring family settings are positive for children and early intervention can reduce the need for more intrusive services later.

If you suspect that a child is being harmed or neglected please make the call to CAS. Here is a website to help you determine which CAS location is the most appropriate for your case.

So you’re not quite sold are you? Still hesitant to make the call? Are you thinking that you only have a hunch or that you don’t have sufficient evidence and you don’t want to be the boy who called wolf? Well here are some tweets from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society that may help ease you:

 

How to Help:
There are many ways to help support this cause, here are a few:

  • Spread Awareness. Yes, it’s a heavy subject but we need to talk about it more. Post about it on social media, share posts on FaceBook, retweet on Twitter, do what us Millennials or Gen Z are known to do and if that fails then word of mouth is always a good back up plan. After all it is how information got around before technology!
  • Wear Purple. October 16, 2015 is this year’s Dress Wear Purple Day in which people are urged to incorporate purple into their outfits in order to help increase awareness.
  • Donate or Volunteer. You can check out organizations such as BOOST, which is a Child and Youth Advocacy centre based here in Toronto dedicated to eliminating child abuse and violence. You can donate, participate in their fundraisers, or volunteer with them.
    • For more information you can visit their website: https://boostforkids.org/
  • Bake or eat baked goods. Woah, how can I help a cause and eat yummy treats you wonder? On campus, the Child and Youth Care Course Union will be holding a bake sale on Monday, October 19 on the 6th floor of the SHE building from 11AM until 2PM. If you’re interested in volunteering, baking, or donating some goodies for the cause then you can contact me at RU.CYC.Union@gmail.com. All the proceeds from the bake sale will go towards the abovementioned organization BOOST.

 

 

Here are some more links if you want to learn more about Child Abuse Prevention:

 

The Campus We Walk On: Social Justice Issues at Ryerson

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During Social Justice Week, I attended the Social Justice Walk with Cathy Crowe.  Cathy Crowe is a street nurse, social activist and educator.  She has worked on issues affecting people experiencing homelessness for more than 17 years.  In 2013, Cathy Crowe joined the Ryerson Family (also known as Ramily) as a distinguished visiting practitioner.  I was very excited to see that she would be leading the Social Justice Walk on campus.

We walk on Ryerson’s campus generally 5 days a week for 4 years.  We spend countless hours in lectures, in the library, in the gym, grabbing a coffee and sitting by Lake Devo.  Ryerson campus is a place we feel at home; if you don’t believe me, check out the number people who take their shoes off and kick back in the library.  While we enjoy the comfort of our second home, we may not remember what surrounds us.  The campus we walk on is immersed in and surrounded by social justice issues.  During the Social Justice Week Walk, we visited the area around Lake Devo, the library, the Quad, the Ryerson Student Centre, and Yonge-Dundas Square.  The places we walk on everyday for education are also sites of struggles and victories in the fight for social justice.

What’s In a Name:
If you’re trying to identify a social justice issue at Ryerson, look no further than its name.  Ryerson University was named after Egerton Ryerson; the man whose ideas shaped the modern day education system.  Ryerson believed that education and religion should be separated but he held a very different view on education for Indigenous children.  Ryerson believed that education for Indigenous children should combine education, religion and physical labour.  It was these ideas that contributed to the creation of the residential school system across Canada that operated until 1996.

Cheryl Trudeau, a coordinator with the Aboriginal Education Council, joined us at the Ryerson Statue on Gould Street to discuss Ryerson’s acknowledgement of the history behind the name that is displayed across the downtown core.  Ryerson University both welcomes and respects Aboriginal peoples, committing itself to proactively working with Aboriginal peoples.  As part of the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Plan, Ryerson established the Aboriginal Education Council in 2010.  Its vision is to ensure that the next seven generations of Aboriginal people will have greater opportunities and success in education at Ryerson University. http://www.ryerson.ca/aec/index.html

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The Campus Daycare: More than Cute Kids in the Quad:
Perhaps you’ve seen the adorable children that attend the daycare located near Kerr Hall West.  They can often be seen taking a stroll around the Quad.  On a surface level, we enjoy seeing cute little kids amongst the big ones that attend Ryerson but much deeper is a social justice issue that has become a federal election issue for some parties.

The topic of childcare holds several social justice issues within itself; affordable childcare, the number of childcare spaces available, the availability of licensed and safe childcare spaces, precarious work experienced by Early Childhood Educators, ability for parents to return to work. and many more.  Providing childcare through a market system is not working for children, parents, families or those who works in the childcare sector.  We need a publicly funded system to address the many social justice issues that fall under childcare.  In Canada, only 20 percent of families have access to licensed childcare spaces, and this includes Quebec which has implemented a $7 a day childcare policy.

Ryerson Lifeline Syria:
Following the emergence of a devastating photo of Alan Kurdi, a toddler who drowned fleeing Syria with his family, refugees have become a topic of conversation in our politics, at school, on social media and at our dinner tables.  Outside Heaslip House, we learned about Ryerson Lifeline Syria and how to get involved.

Canada is unique in that citizens can sponsor refugees through their own means.  Lifeline Syria works to match people who want to sponsor refugees with people who are seeking sponsorship.  They act as a matchmaker, connecting these two groups of people.  This has emerged as a response to a complicated private system that has many twists and turns as well as long wait times.  While students may not have the financial means to sponsor a family, they are able to get involved in other ways.  Ryerson Lifeline Syria has several committees that address different issues refugees face.  Students often join committees related to their program of study and provide support as people arrive to Canada.  Interested students can get more information and sign up at: http://www.ryerson.ca/lifelinesyria/about/index.html

The part of our campus that isn’t really our campus but we consider it part of our campus so it’s pretty much ours:
Yonge-Dundas Square; while not technically part of Ryerson’s campus, any student will tell you that this is Ryerson turf.  Yonge-Dundas Square went through huge changes before our time at Ryerson; this revitalization was intended to address financial interests as well as build community.

With the goal of building community, Yonge-Dundas Square should be about people, activism, community and being one with the land we walk on.  Over time, business and private interests have overtook the area and public space.  This can be seen in the presence of private security in Yonge-Dundas Square, whose role is often to remove people experiencing homelessness that do not fit in with the gentrified idea for the space.  Removing those who do not fit in with this idea takes away from what public space is all about; building the surrounding community which includes those who are not housed.

As we stood in Yonge-Dundas Square, connections were made between these levels of security and Bill C-51; the controversial anti-terrorism bill passed by both the Federal Conservative and Liberal parties.  A bill of this nature makes is more difficult to protest and those who do are surveilled much more.  Yonge-Dundas Square has often been a site of protest for several social justice issues.  The increased surveillance of protestors, especially those who are marginalized, demeans the purpose of public space.

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In and Beyond Ryerson:
While the Social Justice Walk focused on social justice issues on campus, these issues extend to our communities outside of Ryerson.  In the past 10 years, the City of Toronto has lost over 1000 shelter beds due gentrification.  Development that has taken place has either been in the form of condos or properties have been left vacant.  The only youth shelter east of the Don Valley closed its doors last week.  Cathy Crowe has been teaching at Ryerson for two years at Ryerson; within that time there have been 3 or 4 homeless deaths on campus.  These on-campus tragedies directly relate to the city and communities that surround Ryerson.  These deaths are 3 or 4 of 700 names that are on the homeless memorial behind the Eaton Centre.  A homeless memorial is held the second Tuesday of every month at 12:00 pm as both a point of remembrance and pushing forward in advocacy on homeless issues.

Pushing Forward:
The Social Justice Week Walk was informative and emotional, but ended with a point of hope.  We need to make Ryerson less silent on both the social justice issues we walk on and those that surround our campus.  We have people at Ryerson who recognize oppression and marginalization both on and off campus; we have potential.

In Defense of Video Games

While I may be taking some online courses this summer, not having to rush through assignments, do a ton of readings, and make it to classes on time has given me a lot more time to myself.  Sure, there is work around the house to do.  We’ve been working hard getting the outside of the house ready for summer, and soon we’ll turn our eyes to the mess that is the storage area in our basement.  Yeah, I might be working part time in a school aged program, but that leaves my nights free to me.  I cannot tell you how handy having my nights free has been.  After all, giant caverns at the bottom of the earth don’t dig themselves out.

I have been stuck deep in Minecraft this summer.  For those of you who don’t know what it is, Minecraft is a game you can play on your computer or Xbox.  The premise behind the game is really simple.  It’s just you in a giant world.  This world has lakes, oceans, hills, mountains, caves, deserts, forests, and wandering animals.  Everything is made out of blocks, which you can break down, take with you, and put somewhere else.  You can process blocks into other things, such as chopping down trees to make wooden planks so you can make a cottage.  The world is yours to discover and to re-make however you want.  You can make a farm, a giant glass house, a castle up in the sky, a cottage at the bottom of the world (like I did), anything your imagination can think up.  And this is why I would love to give this game to the kids at the program I work.

I would like to take a stand and say that I think video games belong in school aged programs.  I’d like to stand up in defense of them, and say that they are not the terrible, horrible, world ending things that some people.  I think they can actually be used as education tools.

I will start off by saying, however, that not all video games are appropriate for children and not all video games have useable learning opportunities in them.  Take another favourite game of mine: Left 4 Dead.  While I could try and make the case that it does teach team work and cooperation, it also features gory gameplay that is pretty much just running around shooting zombies.  This obviously would not be a good fit for educational setting.  Some games are simply too violent or feature gameplay which just is not acceptable.

The center I work at in Ottawa has a Nintendo Wii game system in almost every room in the program (the children are grouped together in rooms based on age).  The game systems are not always turned on.  They are pulled out for rewards, when the weather is terrible, or when the staff thing the children would enjoy it for a little while.  Mario games are very popular, and it’s not too uncommon to see 4 children playing the same Mario game together.  Occasionally there are fights as to who gets to play and when, but that is where the learning happens.  This is a common resource that all of the children want to use.  They need to learn to share, to take turns, to wait and to watch.  Using the Wii is a privilege, and they have learned that it is something which needs to be shared.

So, social skills are used.  Kids not only need to cooperate to have access to the machine, but they also need to cooperate in game.  Some games are co-op and require the children to work together to achieve a common goal.  They must work together, or they will lose.

Literacy is involved.  Often times games will have a fair amount of text that needs to be decoded.  Not only that, it has been argued that video games present a new type of literacy.  There is some merit to this idea.  Just like any other literacy, it requires certain skills and knowledge to be able to use video games.  To properly manipulate a digital avatar on a screen doesn’t just happen overnight.  It’s a skill like any other.

Problem solving is involved.  Without something to solve, without some sort of obstacle to overcome, there isn’t really a game.  There must be some challenge to it.  There have been studies coming out linking video game use to increased problem solving skills.

There has been a trend the past couple of years to incorporate movement into video games.  The Wii system features motion controls and the Xbox has the Kinect.  Both allow you to move the controller or use your body to play games.  In fact, there are some games based entirely on movement.  One of the most popular games with the children I work with is Just Dance.  In this game, you hold the controller and mimic the dance moves from the game.  Here is a video showing what this looks like.

Now imagine that same scene with a room full of children around grade 1 to 2.  Even those without controllers are dancing too.  Co-ordination, rhythm, body awareness, being active… none of these are bad thing.  Bundle it all together with fun to boot!

Now it is starting to sound like developmental domains: social-emotion, literacy, cognitive, physical.

Do I think video games belong in every program?  Not necessarily.  Do I think video games replace time tested things as dramatic play, wooden blocks, and books?  Certainly not!  What I do feel, though, is that to the creative educator video games can become another tool for learning.  Whether that means building a cottage at the bottom of the world, saving the princess (or prince!) in a tower, or dancing your heart out, I think video games have something to offer.

Standing Out

“You’re unique – just like everyone else”


Almost all of my fellow first year nursing students that I have encountered thus far have said that they want to pursue a career in pediatrics (myself included). Sure, I expect that opinions will change over course of the next three years, but as it stands now, I foresee a high demand for the line of work that does not have the greatest supply. Since coming to university and hearing that most people have the same end goal as I do, I’ve only become more motivated to stand out from the rest in both anticipation of the real world and in hopes to prepare myself (both personally and professionally) for what I am sure that I will one day encounter as a nurse. At this point in time, I’ve really only touched the tip of the professional iceberg with some retail experience, a whole lotta babysitting and as much volunteering as I can handle. As I see it, it’s never too early to start building up your resume or branching out to make contacts in preparation for the real world, and so over the past few years I’ve been trying to do just that.

 

The other day, one of my fellow students and I were talking about what we envision for ourselves after graduation. I told her that I hoped that my volunteer experience in the health care field would help me to get to where I want to be in my career one day (if not for the experience just being listed on my resume, but for the skills that it will help me to develop) but she thought otherwise. In fact, this person told me that she purposely hasn’t spent any time volunteering or trying to get work in the nursing or health care field because she thought that the nursing degree which we will all graduate with in the end will be enough of a qualification to land a job. At first I thought she was joking, then I realized that I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, we all graduate with the exact same thing and if we’re all going to be going for any jobs at all then going above and beyond is the best (and only) way to stand out. No one’s going to hand you a job – in any field – and getting the degree is only one piece of the puzzle.

 

A nursing degree does not make a nurse, and it’s up to us to go above and beyond to foster the most personal and professional growth we can in ourselves – for any profession. I don’t see the sense in adopting the “least possible amount of work” attitude throughout university to try and scrape by and hope that a piece of paper and a few letters after your name will do the talking for you. Even if a bachelor of anything was enough to find a job in the real world, why would anyone want to limit their learning to that? I’d like to think that we’re all pursuing something that we’re passionate about but I know that’s not the case for all. I hope that this person smartens up soon enough to realize that when other people raise the bar by doing everything that they can to become the best that they can be, striving for the bare minimum just isn’t going to cut it!

How to Survive an ECE Placement

For all 1st year and 3rd year ECE students, something magical is about to happen this semester!  Fresh from our time spent with family and food, batteries completely recharged, we return to school bright eyed and bushy tailed for a new semester of learning and excitement!  But what’s this?  Something is different this semester?

This semester we all go on placement!  Huzzah!

For you first years, don’t worry too much.  Placements aren’t as scary as they sound.  Since I already have my college diploma in ECE, I’ve completed three placements already.

I will try to provide some sort of tips and suggestions for surviving placements.  Some might seem common sense, some might sound strange, but hopefully a trick or two will help.

Dress Appropriately

This might seem like common sense, but common sense isn’t always common.  One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from directors in programs is the clothing that some students wear.  No one, I repeat no one, wants to see your underwear.  Remember: you’re there to work, and your clothing should reflect that.

Also, I cannot stress this enough, if you’re going to be outside with the kids be winter ready.  That means boots, jacket, hat, gloves or mittens, and possibly even snow pants.  You need stuff that is okay to get wet and dirty.  You will want clothes that will let you get down and play with the kids if you need to.

Don’t be afraid to look silly

Another potential no brainer, but you’d be surprised.  Some people (not me) are shy about looking strange around others.  This doesn’t go too tell when working with children, however.  Sometimes they will want to play with you, sometimes you’ll have to dance, and sometimes you might even need to sing!  You need to find a balance between being a professional and being entertaining with the children.  If you are too stiff the children won’t find you real, if you are too silly the children won’t take you seriously.

SCIENCE!

Even just milk, food colouring, and soap can create an exciting science experiment

Every placement I have been on I have always included some sort of science activity.  It doesn’t matter the age or the group, I always include science.  Keep in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean getting complicated, expensive, or dangerous.  There are tons of experiments that children love that you can do with nothing more than the stuff you find in your kitchen.  Take some time to research some simple experiments that are developmentally appropriate for your group and impress everyone!

Get to know the parents

I have always found parents to be the hardest part of working with children.  Ultimately both you and the parents want what is best for the child (in theory), but that doesn’t always mean you all see eye to eye on what is the best thing for the child.  Even though you’re only going to be with these children for a couple of months, get to know the parents.  Introduce yourself.  Be friendly.  Set them at ease.  Engage them in some small, polite conversation.  I always try and learn at least one thing about each parent when I am somewhere new.  This forces me to engage them, and get to know them a little bit.  Parents who feel comfortable with their children’s educators and caregivers are more likely to become involved with the program.  That’s a good thing.

Be Flexible

Children are not aware of how your activity plans are supposed to go.  As long as they have a good time, they really don’t care what the original intent was.  If you find that the children are focusing on something different than you expected… shift gears and follow it.  Go with their interests.  Follow what they like, and be willing change your plans as needed.

Also remember: If you do not complete your activity, if things change, if you miss circle for one day because they are completely engaged in something else… the world will not end.

One final suggestion…

Go Back to Baby

This was the biggest suggestion my supervisor Issie ever gave me on any of my placements.  Here’s the idea:

You have a child.  For whatever reason you want to see how they are developing in different domains.  Maybe you have an issue, maybe you have a concern, or maybe you’re just trying to figure out what would be developmentally appropriate for your planning.  Rather than comparing the child to what you think they should be able to do, go back to baby.  Start at the bottom of the developmental milestones, and work your way up.

This does two big things for you.  First of all it can be much easier.  Rather than trying to pick a skill or level of development they think they should have achieved, you go back to the basics and work your way up.  Simply stop when can no longer observe demonstrations of development.

The second is that is allows you to focus on what the child CAN do, rather than what the child CANNOT do.  Child development is a continuum.  A baby doesn’t just suddenly stand up perfectly straight and go running around.  There are lots of little skills that need to be developed along the way that lead walking.  Going back to baby allows you to see what skills and abilities they have developed, and stop when you’ve reached their current level.  Focusing on what they are able to do will help plan how you will help they reach the next level of development rather than looking at what went wrong and how are you able to fix it.

Placement isn’t as scary as you might think it is.  Just remember that both your faculty advisor and your field advisor are there to help you succeed.  Be flexible, use what you’ve learned about children and child development, and you’ll be sure to succeed!

Students honoured at FCS Recognition Event – An Outsider’s Perspective

Guest Blogger: Samantha Sim
Ontario Work Study Program (OWSP) employee for the Faculty of Community Services and 2nd-year Journalism student

Last Wednesday’s first-annual FCS Student Achievement Event reminded me just how interconnected our world really is and how important it is to use this interconnectedness to give back to the communities around us who’re in need. The event showcased 23 presentations split into two categories: students presenting on conferences they had attended and students presenting on their experience at an international placement.  Being a journalism student I’m essentially an outsider to the faculty, so it was interesting for me to see the variety of countries students visited and the range of topics that had been presented at conferences. The event showed me that no matter your age you can make an impact on the world around you and it really got me thinking about the one I want to make before I leave this school.

Award recipients Ying-Mei Liang (left) and Marian Mohamud (right) with Dean Dr. Usha George.

The event also honoured three students who were recipients of Faculty of Community Service awards. Nursing student Ying-Mei Liang was the winner of the FCS Full-Time Undergraduate Award. “Thank you to FCS for recognizing students who go the extra mile outside of class,” she said. Disability studies student Stacey Simmons won the FCS Part-Time Undergraduate Award. Social work student Marian Mohamud was the recipient of the RBC Community Services Award. “[FCS] recognizes our hard work. [Winning this award] tells me that I’m doing something good and that I should continue doing it,” said Mohamud.

Here are a few of the presentations that caught my eye:

Tina, a fourth-year ECE student who recently visited Tanzania, Africa.

Tina, a fourth-year early childhood education student, spent three weeks in Tanzania, Africa this past May working as a team lead for Child Reach International, a U.K. based charity that provides community based development to children worldwide. She helped renovate a local school, teach children, and recruit team members for the charity. Her stay also included a cultural experience where she was able to visit and explore local African communities. “It was an incredible experience and I’d recommend other students to go,” she said. “I’ll definitely be going back within the next five years.”

Denice (right) speaking with an event attendee.

Health science graduate Denice Koo showcased her presentation “An examination of knowledge, beliefs and perceptions about the plant-based diet among women attending breast cancer risk assessment clinics” that she presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference in October 2010. Koo credits the conference support grant as being a major advantage for helping her to secure her current and past jobs. She currently works as a corporate patient education specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Without [the conference support grant], which allowed me to showcase this level of research, I may not have been able to get the types of employment opportunities I’ve had.”

The New Orleans Project and its participants.

A group of students travelled to New Orleans to work with the St. Bernard Project, which is helping to rebuild the St. Bernard parish after Hurricane Katrina. In addition some of the students travelled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to volunteer at a donation centre sorting goods for the victims of the recent tornadoes. I spoke with Iryna Muzyka, a fourth-year food and nutrition student, and Daphne Paszterko, a continuing education student, who both agree that the trip really opened their eyes to the scope of the damage these natural disasters inflicted. “Even if you can see these things on T.V., [this project let us see firsthand] the people who’ve been affected,” said Paszterko.

Katarzyna (left) with Dean Dr. Usha George (right).

Katarzyna Tupta, a masters nutrition communication student, presented the findings of her presentation titled “Expectations and perceptions of first-year students in Ontario food and nutrition undergraduate programs” at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in Edmonton this past July. This was the first conference Tupta attended and she encourages other students to take advantage of the conference support grant. “There’s a whole world outside of school with lots of interesting research going on. The [conference support grant] gave me an opportunity to see this and make lots of professional contacts,” she says. For her project Tupta surveyed 104 first-year nutrition students about what they expected out of their program and whether they were interested in becoming dieticians. She found that 97% of students were in the program with the objective of becoming dieticians.

Confessions of a Male ECE

I have a terrible confession to make.  Please make sure you’re sitting down while reading this.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Okay.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Now, I hate to break this to you… but I, Daniel Gosson, Early Childhood Educator… am a man.

Yes, I know.  It was shocking for me too when I found out.  It was strange for me to realize that I can both be a male and still be comforting, nurturing, and compassionate with small children.  I can feed young children, I can change diapers, and I can sit around a circle and sing songs about elephants and spider webs.  In short, my gender hasn’t been a hindrance to me in this field.  Not for the quality of my work, anyways.  It has been an issue for a few others though.

My first night class at Algonquin College was an interesting experience.  The teacher opened our child development class with a bunch of questions to engage the students in little debates.  They usually were ethical dilemmas that we might run into in the field such

as what would you do if a parent showed up smelling like alcohol, or if a parent not authorized to pick up their child attempts to pick up their child.  The last discussion topic given was this: are men as good caregivers as women?  I put up my hand showing I felt that men are indeed as good caregivers as women, and almost every other person in the class put up their hands to say that they felt that men are not in fact as good caregivers as women.  I was the only male in the room.

Luckily for me, I have one of those personalities that will not let me back down from something.  I’m like a dog with a bone, and I will not let go.  My classmates were telling me that men are not as dependable as women, that men do not have the work ethic that women do, that mothers are far more caring than fathers, and that men working with

young children are just creepy as they are all gay or pedophiles.  I managed to keep up my end of the debate, but when the entire class is against you, you’re fighting a losing battle.

After the class the teacher pulled me aside and thanked me for keeping up my side of the argument.  She herself was a director for a centre and told me that she likes hiring men.  She said she felt that because men

constantly felt challenged when they were in this field, they owned up to the pressure and really shined when working with children.  She also mentioned that because ECE is a very woman dominated field, boys often do not have someone to look up to and connect with, and having at least one man (it’s usually only one man per centre) provides you with that.

Photographic proof of my having been in a daycare

I’ve worked in places where I was the only male staff member.  I’ve had a girl run away from me back to her mother when she saw me at a community outreach play group, I’ve had more people than I can count tell me how ‘nice’ it is to see a guy working in a daycare, and I’ve been to a centre where the men’s washroom was actually used as a storage space (I had to make sure people knew I was going to the washroom or else I would have unexpected visitors).  I’ve met some very interesting men in the field too though.  I’ve met male kindergarten teachers, male ECEs, even a male daycare director.

The centre I work at the most (and hopefully will be working at over the summer break) has a male director, at least one male in each of the four rooms, and most of the supply staff are all male as well.  I know you’re probably expecting me to say that a unicorn is the program assistant and that the playground is in Narnia, but this place really does exist.  Whether it is because of the influence of the director or because there are so many men working in this program, it has a very different feel to it from most programs I have worked at.  While there are still more women than men who work at this centre, the imbalance is not nearly as pronounced as most other programs.

I really am passionate about the ECE field, and can’t think of anything I’d rather do than work with young children.  I firmly believe we need to have more males in the field, and I have a whole list of ideas on how to attract and keep guys working as ECEs (more pay would be pretty close to the top).  I have noticed, while looking around in my classes, that I am in fact not the only guy!  I hope that these other guys stay in the ECE field, and help inspire some other boys to maybe consider becoming an ECE.

I understand and accept that in order to be treated as I want to be treated in this field I will probably have to work a little harder than many of the women ECEs out there.  I know that for the rest of my career I will have to deal with suspicion, and I’ll have to work hard to show just what a wonderful person I am.  Don’t worry, I’m up to the task.  I can do it.  I’m a proud male ECE, hear me roar.