Extension agents provide training for childcare professionals

Rebecca Simon, left, extension program associate for early education, demonstrates a simple science experiment that can be used to demonstrate scientific principles with small children. Center, Rachel Chaney, an extension agent in Stone County, and Leigh Helms, an extension agent from Faulkner County.

LITTLE ROCK — In Arkansas, childcare providers are required to complete a minimum of 15 hours of professional development annually. Family and Consumer Sciences Agents with the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, helped meet this need by conducting professional development training online and in person for thousands of childcare providers in 2022.

Rebecca Simon, Early Childhood and Family Life instructor for the Division of Agriculture, said the training are an important resource for childcare providers and families because they connect “trusted research to the adoption of best practices in early childhood and personal development.”

Extension offers several modes of training for educators, both in-person and online, for its Best Care, Best Care Connected, and Guiding Children Successfully programs. Extension also offers Best Care Out-of-School-Time, an online training geared towards providers who work with school-age children in afterschool, summer, camp and other out-of-school time programs. Simon said about 5,800 individuals were enrolled across all the Early Childhood Professional Development training in 2022.

Simon said that from January through August 2022, Family and Consumer Sciences agents provided in-person Best Care training for more than 1,900 participants in 32 locations statewide. More than 2,900 professionals completed their training online. Simon said FCS agents are the “main reason why Best Care is a success.”

“Agents teach and personalize the content through hands-on activities, discussions and anecdotal stories,” Simon said. “The agents are able to build relationships with the childcare educators and establish themselves as the go-to person for training needs in each county throughout the state.”

Simon said the success of these programs has led to agents being asked to provide additional training in other FCS program areas, including nutrition, health and consumer economics.

Past participants in extension’s early childhood professional development training have commented that the programs are “well put together and very useful for any childcare provider in Arkansas” and provide “practical teaching that can be applied to everyday living.”

“Having training available in-person in remote locations is very helpful,” one participant shared. “The agents are knowledgeable and friendly. I also like learning about other extension programming and ways to educate myself and the parents I work with.”

All childcare training programs are offered free of charge by the Cooperative Extension Service in partnership with the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education and the Professional Development Registry.

Anyone interested in Best Care training should contact their local Family and Consumer Science agent at uaex.uada.edu/counties/ for information about upcoming training offered in their area.

More information about Early Childhood Professional Development opportunities in Arkansas can also be found at uaex.uada.edu/life-skills-wellness/child-care-providers/.

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