Projects

Check out our research publications, infographics, reports, videos, and presentations.

The ECCRC has a few key areas of focus that fit into our three pillars (population-level evaluation, leverage family voice, and knowledge mobilization). Each of our projects fit into one of these key areas of focus.

The key areas of focus are

  1. High-quality, inclusive and culturally responsive early childhood
  2. Child well-being through (a) responsive feeding, (b) social and emotional learning, (c) outdoor play
  3. Building connections for early childhood development

Culturally-responsive early childhood with a focus on newcomer families

Illustrating the Experiences of Immigrant Families in Nova Scotia: A Photovoice Project Exploring the Experiences of Newcomer Families with Young Children

In partnership with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), this research explores how immigrant families understand and experience early childhood programs and services offered in their communities. Families will use photographs to illustrate their lived experiences accessing the supports they need.

Mobilizing Innovative Models in Early Childhood Education and Care for Newcomer Families and Children

This project is funded by the Child and Youth Refugee Research Coalition (CYRRC). Building on the momentum of recent announcements of bi-lateral Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) agreements across Canada that focus on accessible, inclusive, and high-quality ELCC programs, the objective of this research is to identify innovative approaches to ELCC programs to meet the unique needs of newcomer families and support the social and emotional development of their children.

Culturally-responsive early childhood with a focus on Black and African Nova Scotian families

Understanding the Perceptions of Play-Based Education in Communities Experiencing an Achievement Gap

This study is funded by the Inter-University Research Network (IURN) and the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. This study will explore parents’ perceptions of outdoor risky play in African Nova Scotian communities where the children are experiencing an achievement gap. To gain an understanding of varied perspectives, participants will be recruited from across the province to participate in individual interviews (virtually), targeting communities that have representation from the African Nova Scotian population.

High-quality early learning and childcare

Supporting Numeracy and Literacy in Play-Based Early Learning Programs

This project is funded by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation (MWMFF). Early learning programs in Nova Scotia are guided by the Nova Scotia Early Learning Curriculum Framework: Capable, Confident & Curious. This framework promotes intentionality and reflection by the early childhood educators (ECEs) working with young children prior to school entry. By organizing the environment and selecting materials with thought and purpose, educators can create a play-based environment which supports co-construction of knowledge and skills between and among children and themselves.

This project seeks to better understand the many ways that numeracy and literacy are supported in early learning programs. It will also examine the possible tensions between the expectations of teacher-directed activities and the realities  of play-based education.

This project involves six workshops with pre-primary ECEs, representing rural Nova Scotians, the Francophone Community, and African Nova Scotians. Participants will share their unique perspectives on numeracy and literacy’s role in a play-based classroom by using photographs and reflective notes.

Child well-being through responsive feeding

CELERATE Feeding (Coaching in Early Learning Environments to Build a Responsive Approach to Eating and Feeding)

This project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This project will use a coaching model to support early childhood educators (ECEs) and other child care centre staff to build a responsive feeding environment in their centre and to gain or improve responsive feeding practices.

Responsive feeding refers to a reciprocal relationship between a child and their caregiver that is characterized by the child communicating feelings of hunger and satiety (fullness), followed by an appropriate response from the caregiver. Children are born with the ability to recognize hunger and satiety and the capacity to self-regulate their intake of food. This capacity to self-regulate energy intake is supported when children are verbally cued to attend to their hunger and satiety by can be easily overridden by caregivers.

The CELEBRATE Feeding intervention is being developed using the Behaviour Change Wheel, a systematic tool for understanding and changing behaviour through effective intervention design. Educators and centre staff will be coached by two Early Years Nutrition Coaches using Behaviour Change Wheel techniques. We will work with five Nova Scotian child care centres and three child care centres on Prince Edward Island to implement this one-year intervention beginning  in early 2022 and will be evaluating the effectiveness of this intervention for improving responsive feeding environments and behaviours in child care centres.

Check out the CELEBRATE Feeding website and follow the project on Instagram and Facebook.

Child well-being through social and emotional learning

Building the Capacity of Early Childhood Educators to Support the Social-Emotional Development of Children and their Families: Evaluating the Implementation of the Pyramid Model in NS

The Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children is an evidence-based, positive behaviour support framework for early childhood educators (ECEs) to promote social and emotional development and address challenging behaviours. To support all children, a coaching approach to professional development and skill development is used. The goal of the Pyramid Model initiative is to support the social and emotional health of all children across the province.

In 2018, Nova Scotia began implementing the Pyramid Model at select Regulated Child Care Centres across the province. This step was intended to help begin to build the capacity of ECEs to support all children’s social and emotional development. In 2019, the province broadened its implementation of the Pyramid Model into select Pre-primary Programs across the province. Both cohorts began implementation with a focus on strengthening the knowledge of ECEs through professional development and the first universal tier for supporting all children through nurturing and responsive relationships with high-quality supportive environments.

The ECCRC is leading the evaluation of the Pyramid Model across the province. We are examining how the existing infrastructure and partnerships support the Pyramid Model’s implementation and how the model influences the awareness, knowledge, and value of social-emotional learning.

Learn more by looking at our Introduction to the Pyramid Model infographic in English or French.

Positive Solutions for Families: Promoting Positive Parent Behaviours to Support Social Emotional Health

Positive Solutions for Families (PSF) is a population-level intervention initially developed by the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL). PSF is designed to develop family protective factors for mental health promotion through parenting strategies that focus on building supportive environments for social and emotional learning during early childhood. This project with adapt, implement, and evaluate the PSF program. PSF is a complementary program to the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social and Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children.

PSF is delivered through online or in-person sessions. Sessions include group discussions, evidence-based practice and role-play, and cover topics such as building relationships, strategies to promote positive behaviour and play as powerful parenting practices. The program will be facilitated by staff from the Nova Scotia Early Childhood Development Intervention Services (NSECDIS). NSECDIS provides province-wide specialized services to families with young children between birth and school entry, who either have a biological risk or a diagnosis of developmental delay.

The research includes an evaluation of the PSF sessions through surveys, training evaluation forms, and interviews. The research will be conducted with families participating in the training sessions and with the facilitators who deliver the training.

This project will focus on implementing and evaluating the existing PSF workshop sessions and follow-up phone call protocol for three various regulated child care centres across Nova Scotia. The remaining months will focus on implementing and evaluating the adapted sessions with five different regulated childcare centres across the province. The project will support knowledge exchange by creating regional and provincial opportunities to exchange lessons in implementing the intervention. The project will also explore the interest, feasibility, and cultural appropriateness of the Mi’kmaq and newcomer communities’ intervention.

Child well-being though outdoor play

Mobilizing Outdoor Play Through Participatory Action Research 

This study is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Explore Grant (Internal). There is increasing attention on child-directed outdoor play in the early learning and child care (ELCC) environment to support health, wellbeing, and development. There can be challenges implementing outdoor play in ELCC that are best understood through investigating the local context and co-designing solutions with those involved.

Through participatory action research and an ethnographic case study approach, this study will explore stakeholders’ (i.e. early childhood educators, children, parents, etc.) experiences and perspectives of outdoor play across different weather and seasons, and how these may shift with increased access to quality outdoor gear. This study works in partnership with educators, children, and other stakeholders of the early childhood community to better understand identified contextual barriers related to implementing increased outdoor play opportunities. Additionally, this project will support decisions related to purchasing physical resources and other initiatives that are needed to build comfort and support for outdoor play for the early childhood community in Nova Scotia.

Building connections for early childhood development

Data Systems for Early Childhood Development in Atlantic Canada: A Collective Discussion to Share Current Progress and Explore Aspirations for the Future

The Connections Project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The project builds on existing relationships and focuses on mobilizing data collection and reporting on children’s development in Atlantic Canada. It supports knowledge mobilization efforts that focus on moving toward integrated data systems across Atlantic Canada to monitor quality ECEC experiences on child development.

The project involves collective discussions with early childhood policymakers, researchers, and practitioners from across Atlantic Canada. The goal is to build an understanding of current research efforts and to explore opportunities for Atlantic Canadian professionals to work together in collaborative research. Early childhood research representatives from the four Atlantic provinces, and Dr. Magdalena Janus from McMaster University in Ontario, will facilitate a series of five discussions to share current progress and explore aspirations for the future in Atlantic Canada.

Check out the recorded sessions, graphic summaries of each seminar, and graphic facilitations by Mo Dresch.

Past Projects

How is the Pandemic Influencing the Lives of Maritime Families with Young Children? A COVID-19 Focused Research Project

Given the coronavirus’s novelty (COVID-19) global pandemic, the exact impact of COVID-19 and the associated closures and physical distancing advice on Maritime families was unknown. We introduced an online survey to understand how the global pandemic influences the lives of Maritime families with young children, including their routines and needed supports. This will lead to future research focused on learning how family life has adapted as a result of COVID-19.

View preliminary results in the form of infographics.

Responsive Feeding Environments in Early Learning Settings: A Scoping Review of the Factors Influencing Implementation and Sustainability

This was one of two scoping reviews we conducted to comprehensively explore and synthesize the related literature on a topic important to our work at ECCRC: Responsive food environments. Specifically, we sought to answer the question: What is known about the factors influencing the implementation and sustainability of responsive food environments in early learning settings?

Expanding Connections to Support Early Childhood Development in Nova Scotia (SSHRC Exchange)

The ECCRC hosted a series of online seminars that strengthen relationships and promote collective learning amongst early childhood professionals and families while also supporting program development and policy refinement. The objectives of the online seminar series include 1) To build on existing knowledge and identifying new understandings in early childhood, and 2) To facilitate collaboration and relationship-building among policy-makers, practitioners, service providers, families, and researchers. The project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

First in the series: Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Communication Between Early Childhood Educators and Families to Support Children’s Social and Emotional Development, (February 2021).

Second in the series: How Are Maritime Families Experiencing the Pandemic? Building a Connection Between Early Childhood Educators and Families During COVID-19, (March 2021).

Third in the series: Responsive Feeding Practices in Early Learning Programs: Strategies for Enhancing Healthy Eating Among Young Children, (April 2021).

EDI Mapping Project

The EDI mapping project aims to identify geographic patterns of childhood vulnerability across Nova Scotia’s sub-areas and how they have changed in recent years. We looked at low school readiness (vulnerability) patterns using provincial Early Development Instrument assessments by a custom geographical area unit called Community Clusters. We want to add clarity to our understanding that, in addition to individual and family circumstances, structural determinants of health in the community context are also an important factor that influences early childhood vulnerability.

Growing a Family in New Land: A Scoping Review of the Factors Shaping Newcomer Families’ Experiences with Early Childhood Supports

This is one of two scoping reviews we conducted to comprehensively explore and synthesize the related literature on a topic important to our work at ECCRC: Immigrant families. Specifically, we seek to answer the question: What is known about immigrant families’ experiences with programs and services to support early childhood development in Canada?

Establishing a Current State of Healthy Eating Practices Across Early Learning Environments

Building upon the momentum of the revised Canada’s Food Guide and the increased policy attention on early childhood in Nova Scotia, the ECCRC seeks to build a research program to support healthy eating practices across early learning environments. We are currently using a Knowledge-to-Action model to build an understanding of current healthy eating and responsive feeding practices in early learning environments and support partnership development among a collaborative team of academics, practitioners, and policymakers.

Facilitating Quality Early Learning Environments: Evaluation of Professional Development for Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework

In the summer of 2018, Nova Scotia launched its early learning and curriculum framework (ELCF) entitled Capable, Confident, & Curious: Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework. It was the ninth province in Canada to do so over the last twelve years. The ELCF is an evidence-based support framework for early childhood educators and parents to promote and facilitate social and emotional development within classrooms and curriculum.

The Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre (ECCRC) is leading the evaluation of the ELCF training initiative on behalf of the Dept. of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD). The purpose of this evaluation is to provide information on the implementation and short-term outcomes of the implementation of the Professional Development (PD) to support Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework in early learning environments. An interim report will be released in the spring of 2020.

Quality Matters in Nova Scotia: Evaluating the Process of the Early Child Care Quality Assessment Program

As part of the 2016 report, Affordable Quality Childcare: A Great Place to Grow, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) launched the province-wide assessment program Quality Matters. To understand how regulated child care centres across Nova Scotia engaged this new implementation, ECCRC is evaluating the QM process in partnership with the DEECD. With funding provided by the Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation, ECCRC examines the experiences of centres to understand how Quality Matters has influenced the understanding and integration of continuous quality improvement across the province.

Addressing the Achievement Gap Through Pre-primary (2017-2018)

This research project investigates how Nova Scotia’s Pre-primary Program addresses the achievement gap by ensuring equal opportunities for early childhood education, taking into account societal and community barriers and diversity. This research is funded by the Inter-University Research Network (Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development).

For the Pre-primary Program to provide high-quality early childhood education, recruitment and retention of trained early childhood educators are required. Students enrolled in the Mount Saint Vincent University Child and Youth Study program, and Nova Scotia’s Early Childhood Education training programs with a Mount Saint Vincent/Child and Youth articulation agreement (Nova Scotia Community College, Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education, The Jane Norman College and Université Saint Anne) were recruited to complete a survey.

The survey examined how the pre-primary program’s introduction is influencing future Early Childhood Educators in terms of their perception of changes in workforce opportunities and their expectations about future employment. The results will provide information to help inform decision-making around the training, education, recruitment and employment in Early Childhood Education/Child and Youth related sectors.

Expanding Connections to Support Early Childhood Development in Nova Scotia

The ECCRC hosts a series of curated, thematic seminars exploring different early childhood topics (including responsive feeding, social-emotional learning, supporting children with autism, play-based learning). The seminars occur simultaneously across three communities in Nova Scotia. Each session includes a presentation with topic-specific content, storytelling, and facilitated discussion with early childhood stakeholders, especially Early Childhood Educators. Check out a recording of our first seminar here.

Increasing Access to an Affordable Program Focused on Movement and Outdoor Play: Evaluation of the Before and After Pre-primary Program Pilot

From January to June 2019, the Nova Scotia Departments of Education and Early Childhood Development and Communities, Culture, and Heritage piloted a demonstration project, providing onsite programming focused on movement, outdoor play, and physical literacy.

We conducted a developmental evaluation to determine how the shared standards and pilot implementation influenced access to affordable, quality programming for children and their families and how it influenced early childhood educators and recreation practitioners’ awareness and skills in movement, physical literacy, and outdoor play. Results will be shared soon!

 Mobilizing Connections to build early childhood partnerships in Nova Scotia

Through the Connection Grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac is leading an effort to respond to families’ needs by developing collaborations, sharing best practices and mobilizing research results.

In Fall 2018, a group of multi-sector participants working in early childhood research, policy, and practice in Nova Scotia came together to strengthen collaborations between researchers and policy/practice stakeholders to promote collective learning and strengthen future research partnerships supporting program development and policy refinement. The event met two specific objectives:

1.Support knowledge mobilization between academic and non-academic early childhood stakeholders in Nova Scotia and across Canada.

2.Identify opportunities to enable future collaborations among researchers, policymakers and practitioners in Nova Scotia and across Canada.

Existing early childhood collaborative partnerships within Nova Scotia were strengthened, and new connections between stakeholders working in research, policy and practice were encouraged. The event also enhanced students’ skill development in early childhood research and knowledge mobilization to support future research training and professional aspirations. Priority actions were discussed to identify opportunities for future collaborations between stakeholders. Stay tuned for future developments!

Supporting Young Children and Their Families Through Seamless Access to Play-based Learning Programs: Evaluating Nova Scotia’s Early Years Centres and Pre-primary Program

This five-year evaluation was conducted on behalf of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development with the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation’s funding.

We looked at the province’s Early Years Centres and Pre-primary Programs to understand how they can be integrated into the existing school system to best support children, families, and care providers. Gathering data for this project involved a wide array of methods, including interviews, focus groups, school visits, an online family survey, and the administration of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale Third Edition (ECERS-3).