Sonoma State University education professor Kristina de Korsak has been awarded a fellowship at a prestigious early childhood research institute.
De Korsak, an assistant professor of early childhood studies at Sonoma State, was awarded a yearlong faculty fellowship from the Simms/Mann Institute in Los Angeles. Her work questions why children are treated as a demographic rather than as individuals. "Why are we trying to make everyone the same, why is that a good thing?" she asks. "Why are we trying to standardize childhood?"
As one of the institute's 13 Fellows for 2015-2016, de Korsak will learn about the latest neuroscience research on early child development, focusing on the critical ages of 0 to 3, which will go towards the design of a project and coursework in Early Childhood studies at Sonoma State.
De Korsak, who speaks English, French and some Spanish, focuses on how children acquire language and what factors might foster or impede that. She does this through the lens of social justice. "I look for ways for all children in all families to thrive."
De Korsak studies the benefits of teaching with a "differences" model rather than a "deficit" model, meaning she seeks to capitalize on the skills a child inherently displays rather than the skills he or she is lacking. "You find what amazing gift they bring and foster that, rather than find what's lacking and fix it," explains de Korsak.
This applies to language, especially for children whose first language is not English. "If a child makes an error in language, we tend to look at that instead of what they got right," says de Korsak. It's more effective to come from a position of reinforcement instead of just saying no, she says. "There's no cognitive reason children can't learn two languages."
Professor de Korsak was recognized at the Simms/Mann Think Tank event on Nov. 3 in Beverly Hills, where Fellows had the opportunity to interact with internationally recognized neuroscientists and researchers, as well as their peers and other leaders in the field. De Korsak and the other 12 Fellows selected this year will present their research at next year's event.
"By enhancing academic supports, which include continued education for teachers, such as that received by the Simms/Mann Faculty Fellowship, we will make great strides in advancing the next generation of early care and education providers," said Loren Blanchard, executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the California State University. "A key element in achieving this goal is to provide high-quality infant and toddler practicum experience on campus."
The Simms/Mann Institute for Education and Community Development, an operating foundation, was established in 2011 in response to the fast-paced lifestyle of today's world. "The Digital Age of technological advances, globalization, and changing economic conditions has led to profound social issues that affect the entire world," says the institute. "This accelerated, competitive, over-stimulating way of life, complicated by stress, has threatened the healthy development of the child, the family, and the community."