New SSHRC funding supports social innovation research into the impacts of positive learning environments

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New funding for Red River College’s Science of Early Child Development program will help explore the impact of improved language and literacy skills on vulnerable children and their caregivers.

The nearly $234,000 in funding — from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC) Community and College Social Innovation Fund — will support new research to understand how changing at-risk children’s education environments can have a positive ripple effect on the adults around them.

The College will use the funds to expand current work studying the Abecedarian Approach, an internationally recognized intervention that creates a play-based, language-focused environment to promote development in at-risk kids from birth to age five.

“We believe an important part of the story is missing where the research focus is solely on child outcomes,” says Janet Jamieson, research chair for RRC’s Health Sciences and Community Services department. “While a child’s world is shaped by their environment and those around them, it should not be ignored that they in turn can have important impacts on those external elements.”

While there are plenty of studies demonstrating the success of the Abecedarian Approach on child development, very little has been documented on the effects had on adult caregivers of children enrolled in the program.

The College’s research is expected to play a meaningful role in informing policy, through insights into how evidence-based interventions with children in impoverished and challenged neighbourhoods could have positive impacts on families and communities.

“Evidence shows that the severe economic and societal challenges children from impoverished communities are faced with often lead to very poor outcomes in their development,” Jamieson explains. “These outcomes can be extremely disruptive for families and communities, which is why researching interventions such as the Abecedarian Approach is important.”

The College and its partners — Manidoo Gi Miini Gonaan and Healthy Child Manitoba — are currently involved in an Abecedarian intervention being implemented at Manidoo’s Lord Selkirk Park Children’s Centre in Winnipeg’s North End.

The new funding, announced Friday by Minister of Science Kristy Duncan, allows RRC to build on its local and international leadership role in social innovation research and knowledge mobilization.

“Red River College plays an important role in supporting social innovation, and our ongoing work in early child education continues to be recognized internationally for the positive impact it has made,” says Paul Vogt, president and CEO, Red River College.

“SSHRC’s support today will help us continue to connect with our valued partners to expand this research, as it’s crucial to communities in Manitoba, in Canada and around the world.”