Frostburg Professor Prepping Hub City Kids for Kindergarten by Engaging Families

Aug 10, 2017 12:35 PM

The old maxim goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” One Frostburg State University professor has revised that idea based on educational research and her classroom experiences: To raise successful children, it takes families engaged in their communities and their child’s education.

Dr. Jamelyn Tobery-Nystrom, assistant professor of educational professions for FSU at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, utilized that concept for two related programs that help prepare Washington County children for kindergarten success, The Hub at USMH and FINDING the Hub City.

She was inspired to start the first program by a double-shot of bad news: Maryland’s 2013-14 School Readiness Report had ranked Washington County last in Maryland for kindergarten preparedness, which came right after the federal sequestration stripped $400 million from the national Head Start early childhood program. Tobery-Nystrom took action.

“There was a push for accountability from the top at higher levels – holding teachers liable for their students’ success, holding higher education liable for their graduates’ success – and yet we were taking away funding to get more kids involved in pre-K and Head Start,” said Tobery-Nystrom. “We were very upset and angry about that. That really was the beginning of The Hub.”

The Hub at USMH: Early Learning Center helps families better support learning at home for children 2 to 4 years old.

At The Hub, located in the H.W. Murphy Community Health Center, 24 N. Walnut St. in Hagerstown, teacher candidates from FSU’s program at USMH engage children in free play and activities designed to teach through play. While children play, their families make learning kits and home activity centers, learn to teach math and science lessons and learn how to promote social development at home. The Hub even provides free breakfast and lunch in partnership with Washington County Public Schools.

Staff also meet with children and families in the community at the Noland Village Community Center, Bester Elementary School, the Washington County Family Center and more.

“All parents are a bit surprised to learn all the things their child needs to know to go to kindergarten and be successful,” Tobery-Nystrom said. “The bar has been raised for sure.”

Last year, The Hub helped 180 children and family members hurdle that raised bar. The first participants are beginning to enter kindergarten now, but Tobery-Nystrom’s staff of educators has assessed their participants as fully prepared.

At The Hub, Tobery-Nystrom also identified one common issue with the families she was helping, many of whom were new to the area: “So often, our families ... didn’t know what was available to them in their own county. That’s what FINDING the Hub City is all about.”

FINDING (Families Involved, Noticing, Discovering, Imagining, Nurturing and Getting to know) the Hub City introduces families to various educational, arts and cultural entertainment facilities in and around Washington County. Open to all families participating in The Hub at USMH, FINDING the Hub City has brought groups to Greenbrier State Park, Discovery Station, Misty Meadows Farm, Williamsport Pool, Pangborn Park, story time at the Washington County Free Library and Skyzone. So far, 40 participants have taken advantage of FINDING the Hub City this summer. During the 2016-17 school year, the program saw more than 120 participants.

For the teacher candidates from FSU’s program at USMH, working with parents and children offers professional development toward leading classrooms of their own. Over the past four years, about 20 Master of Arts in Teaching – Elementary candidates have participated in The Hub. All are now teachers.

To learn more about The Hub at USMH and FINDING the Hub City, visit http://thehubusmh.weebly.com/.

The Hub at USMH is supported by the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education, Early Intervention Services grant. It partners with Washington County Public Schools, the Judy Center, Washington County’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, Birth through Five and the Washington County Family Center.

FINDING the Hub City is supported by the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation, Inc. through the FSU Foundation, Inc.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.