Gesell Institute of Child Development is now an independent non-profit organization located directly on Yale University’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut. It has been associated with understanding how children grow and learn since 1950. Gesell programs and publications help parents and educators understand the ages and stages of childhood.
Understanding the stages of child growth and development, and then using this knowledge to interpret behaviors, to plan appropriate curricula, and to manage the classroom are essential to quality teaching practices. Gesell professional development workshops, seminars and webinars link the continuum of growth to the use of an effective screening tool, the Gesell Developmental Observation – Revised ©2011 and the new Gesell Early Screener ©2011.
Our mission is to promote the principles of child development as the basis for all decision making for young children.
1) The publication, release and launch of the Gesell Institute’s Community Early Childhood LEADership E-Kit and Website (www.geselle-kit.org). This interactive CD-ROM is the electronic proceedings from Gesell’s LEAD (Lead, Educate, Advocate, Do!) Conference. It serves as the Institute’s contribution to the national conversation on school reform that starts with early childhood education.
2) Dr. Guddemi had the honor of speaking and presenting twice in Washington, DC. Once at the “Global Summit on Childhood,” which was organized by the Assoc. for Childhood Education International (ACEI), in collaboration with Gesell Institute, Rutgers University and the Division for Early Childhood-Council for Exceptional Children. She spoke again when the Institute partnered with the Department of Education and Alliance for Childhood to create a day-long symposium: “Giving Young Children the Right Start – Effective Practices for Experiential Learning.”
3) In partnership with Yale University’s School of the 21st Century and the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy, 20 educators from China visited Gesell Institute. They participated in a week long workshop to learn about the Gesell Developmental Observation-Revised (GDO-R) assessment tool.
4) Printed and downloadable electronic Technical Reports now exist for both the Gesell Developmental Observation-Revised (GDO-R) and Gesell Early Screener (GES) assessments; the first ever in the Institute’s history.
5) In collaboration with New Haven Public Schools, Gesell Institute has once again achieved a grant from the district to continue their Parent-Teacher Connection Program in the city, which promotes school success and adaptation for children by strengthening the connection between home and school. It also empowers families by educating them about the transitions to Kindergarten, and offers recommendations to families on how to better interact with schools and teachers.
Our most pressing needs are: Strategic Planning ($50-60K); Being Competitively Active by creating Electronic Scoring for our assessments ($60K); Print and Online Advertising of new products and programs ($40K). We also need assistance in capacity building in our New Haven, CT office, and also nationwide, by expanding the number of our NLS staff across the country. We would like to recruit new members and assessment tool administrators.
Over the past eleven years, No Child Left Behind has mandated that schools use academic rather than developmental measures to asses and plan academically for young children. Gesell Institute advocates that decisions for young children should be based on developmental measures not academic ones. Methods of teaching young children should not be “drill and kill” academics but rather should be developmentally based in order to engender personal skills of curiosity, problem solving, collaboration, and creativity needed for later success in life.
We applaud the Gesell’s Board of Directors decision to promote the principles of child development for all decision making about young children based on Arnold Gesell’s theory of development. By believing that Gesell’s theory was more relevant and important today than ever before, they supported a national study of over 1,300 three-to-six-year-old children in order to provide new technical data and baseline information for the Gesell Developmental Observation (GDO).
The results of the Institute’s study in 2010 affirmed Dr. Gesell's original understanding of how children learn and development. The big news is that children's learning hasn't really changed in spite of how much the culture has. Everyone at the Institute had been holding its breath to find out if the huge changes in lifestyle, the influence of technology, families with both parents working, the preponderance of daycare, etc would have changed the way kids learn. It turns out that children still learn the way they always have, and yet our schools are making big changes and have expectations of children that are not in sync with this information. So a big challenge for Gesell is getting this information out there and advocating for the rights of children to play, learn and grow at their own pace. This is not an easy sell in 2012 when the culture and the educational system is decreasing the opportunities for play and increasing the use of standardized achievement tests to measure academic growth.
An additional challenge is that the GDO-R & GES were released during the Recession and school districts were cutting back funds for professional development of teachers. The Institute had used some of its endowment to fund the renorming study and its national conference.
I am committed to working with the Board and staff to get the Gesell voice out there and hope to help guide them find additional financial support for the endowment.
Gesell Institute helps to support schools and families locally within the city of New Haven, CT but we are a nationally recognized non-profit organization. We host professional development workshops in every state that is interested across the country. We offer a multitude of webinars monthly that also has a national audience. Our Executive Director has even been a presenter at international conferences. Gesell Institute is known in Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Netherlands and Germany, to name a few.
California has just enacted legislation requiring every school district to provide developmental (or transitional) kindergarten for children with late birthdays or developmental needs. “As goes California, so goes the nation.” Not only should we heed this popular idiom on this issue, we should embrace it and promote it! Every child across the nation, not just CA children, deserves a kindergarten experience that meets his/her developmental needs. The “one size fits all” curriculum in so many schools, districts, and states does not promote or ensure learning for all children---rather only those children who “fit” the curriculum. Gesell would like to promote the universal passage of such a law for developmental kindergarten in all states; and especially in CT where our cut-off date for Kindergarten entrances is the latest in the nation and our standards for Kindergarteners are unrealistic. Promoting this philosophy and message requires money.
Gesell Institute offers workshop training on how to properly administer our Gesell Developmental Observation-Revised ©2011 assessment tool, which can be used with children ages 2 ½ to 9. Our workshops are hosted by schools and child care centers all across the country. A Gesell representative from our National Lecture Staff (NLS) travels to the location and hosts the 3-day workshop. Gesell Institute pays for the NLS’s travel and housing expenses.
We have programs and products that help teachers and parents understand their child’s development which can contribute to a smoother transition when starting school and deciding what is and is not appropriate curriculum. If schools, public and/or private would learn the information we have to offer, and use our assessment tool, the GDO-R, they would have a more solid understanding of the children in their classrooms and be in a better position to navigate the chasm that often exists between the expectations and curriculum of a particular grade and the abilities and readiness of the actual children who are expected to master the information.
Gesell Institute's Director of the National Lecture Staff is Sally Keller. She says: the ideal “ultimate” change would be that the curriculum would reflect a child’s readiness to learn and not an arbitrary skill or task someone who does not know how children grow and learn expects children to master. For example all the research on learning letters and pre-reading reveals that 4 ½ to 5 year olds (the age many children enter Kindergarten) recognize only 10 to 12 letters however the curriculum for most all Kindergartens expects that entering Kindergarteners know all their letters and even their sounds. This huge disconnect between application and research/best practices causes many of the problems in schools today. My ideal state would be that the curriculum would be a better match to the developmental levels of the students in that grade. I would expect that referrals for reading support would decrease, retention rates would decrease, as would referrals for Special Needs evaluations.
We will know what is and is not working by whether or not we have established an ongoing relationship with schools. Another way to assess our effectiveness is thru the evaluations we give at the end of our 3 day GDO-R workshops. On the last afternoon of the 3 day GDO-R workshops we pass out an evaluation form which asks questions about the presenter, the material, and the Institute. Evaluations are made regarding relevance, communication, and presentation. These evaluations are used to improve communication or product, and/or to assess the person presenting the information. We also have a facebook page which tracks “hits” and interest as well.
As with many organizations there are times of much activity and times of less activity. Because we have invested many of our resources in updating our product(s), we are looking forward to an increase in demand. Our current materials are being very well received as evidenced by comments on our evaluations over the summer workshops. Our information is timeless and always applicable however updating to reflect current education concerns and issues is essential. Many schools could not use our product because we could not show a current “renorming” or data collection. Now that it has been completed, we are positioned to move into many areas that we did not have access to previously. Evaluations included comments like : “I can’t believe I ever taught 1stgrade without this knowledge! I am so much more equipped to understand my students than I was. This will change how I teach,” and “Understanding the Ages and Stages of development has totally changed how I teach and parent. I did not understand how knowledge grew in; I just thought I hadn’t taught it yet! Now I know how the whole child grows!”
The biggest challenge facing our organization is the plight of education in our country. States are cutting funding for programs that they mandate and leave local school districts very strapped financially. Furthermore, due to the unemployment rates and the trouble with our economy, tax increases to run schools are not very popular. This challenge is also our opportunity. We have programs and products that help teachers and parents understand their child’s development which can contribute to a smoother transition when starting school and deciding what is and is not appropriate curriculum. If schools, public and/or private would learn the information we have to offer, and use our assessment tool, the GDO-R, they would have a more solid understanding of the children in their classrooms and be in a better position to navigate the chasm that often exists between the expectations and curriculum of a particular grade and the abilities and readiness of the actual children who are expected to master the information. Another challenge to us is the increasing costs to produce a workshop . The participant fees have to cover the materials (a Manual and numerous brochures, and postage costs for sending items to the sites), the National Lecture Staff fee and travel expenses. We are cautious about raising our participant fees in fear we will price ourselves out of the market, at the same time that our expenses are increasing.
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When families, schools and communities take the view that children and youth are valued and respected assets to society, they necessarily support environments that nurture youth development. Children raised to embrace positive social values, to seek self-understanding, and to value their self-worth grow to become community-minded young adults with a sense of belonging and a belief in their resiliency. See how you can help our community's children grow into tomorrow's leaders.
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