Mary Lim

Sunday, August 30, 2015

va: kansas city's challenges

Here are three recurring, persistent issues Kansas City faces:
After the talk with Scott Hall, Sara and I were inspired to start at the root of the problem and the solution: children. Giving children the freedom of choice through creating equal opportunities for families of all household incomes would hit two of the three biggest problems I stated above, both indirectly and directly. Why do people commit crime? Most of the time, it goes back to their home/neighborhood environment and their living condition. Why do people seem like they're stuck in poverty? Because of the lack of opportunities for higher education.

So, here is our main, over-arching problem we want to help solve:

Problem: How can we create/promote/raise awareness of equal opportunities for child development?
Our three directions are: the home environment, the classroom, and the community

Background Research
A. Children's Basic Needs

  1. meeting their everyday needs: feeding them when they're hungry / keeping them warm, dry and safe from danger / helping them if they are in pain, scared or upset / providing family routines / making sure there is always someone you trust to look after them
  2. feel safe & secure: When children feel safe and secure they learn to trust other people. Children who don't feel safe can be anxious and unhappy. This can affect their health and learning. But when they learn that they can trust the adults around them, it helps them grow up happy, healthy and to enjoy the world around them.
  3. love and hugs: Hugs and cuddles help children to feel safe and comforts them. Holding your children, picking them up, sitting them on your lap, kissing and cuddling, are important.
  4. plenty of praise: Children want to please their parents. If you please them when they do well at something or are trying hard, it will make them want to do it again. Praising a child for being good will make them want to be good, and it will help them feel good about themselves. Children who feel good about themselves tend to: (learn more easily and make more efforts to achieve / get into less trouble / get on well with others / make friends more easily / feel happier and more secure)
  5. smiles: Smiling is a simple way of helping children feel happy and safe.
  6. talking: It's good to talk and sing to babies from the time they are born. A gentle voice helps your child to feel relaxed and secure. It helps them to get to know you, and to know that you are there to look after them. When you talk to your children they soon start learning words themselves. The more you talk to them, the more they will learn. They also learn more if you use proper adult words most of the time. Learning words helps them to communicate and to understand more about the world. Children with a good use of words find it easier to express themselves, to make friends, and to learn at school and at home.
    • Ideas of talking to your children: 
      • a quiet time together before bed: just talking about your day / "special time"
      • name games: Where's your tummy? Where's the cat? / What is that?
      • bedtime stories: or just read books at any time.
      • sing: songs are a great way to learn words.
      • talk topic: ask them to pick a topic, and you can tell a story about it.
      • play 'highs and lows': if your child is a bit older, talk about the best thing and worst thing that happened that day.
  7. listening: Children ask a lot of questions as they learn to use their words. Listen carefully and do your best to answer the questions, you will show them that learning is fun. Even when kids ask for something they can't have, they need an answer and a simple explanation.
  8. learn new things: You don't need fancy toys or equipment to give your child new experiences. You can use everyday things around you, go for walks or explore the beach or park. Why not start a collection? Or walk about joining a toy library? This makes learning fun and teaches them about the world. They need other people too - other children to play with and relationships with people of all ages.
    • New experiences can include simple things like:
    • -tell a story from your childhood
      -play a game (peek a boo / I spy)
      -sing a dong
      -explore the house and garden
      -read a book (even to babies)
      -teach your kids shapes and colors
      -take your kid to a friends place to visit
      -praise your children for something new they did
      -take your child for a walk to the park or anywhere nearby
      -do some drawing, painting, or coloring
      -pick up stones, look at flowers... new experiences are everywhere for kids
  9. take care of their feelings: Babies and small children can be frightened by anything new and different, when there is no real danger. A stranger, a clown, or a loud noise, can all be very scary for a toddler who is not used to them. Sometimes you might feel tempted to laugh, to tease them or to tell them 'not to be silly'. What they really need is for you to comfort them and give them a simple explanation. This helps them feel good about themselves and feel okay about talking if they have a serious problem.
  10. rewards and special treats: All parents want their children to behave. If you give attention when they are good, it will make them want to be good more often. If you only notice them once they are naughty, it might make them want to be naughty more often. The best reward for being good is getting your time and attention. Taking them to play and have fun together doesn't have to cost money. A picnic, a walk in the park or a trip to the beach can be lots of fun. Also read with your child as a special reward or treat.
    • idea: make them a scrapbook
    • Children love stories about themselves - it helps them feel loved and important. Put things in it like a handprint, photos, things they've said, a favorite birthday card. 
B. The Impact of the Home Environment on Children

  • "Substantial research evidence indicates that parenting and children's activities in the early years have a powerful influence on cognitive ability. Parenting practices such as reading to children, using complex language, responsiveness, and warmth in interactions, are all associated with better developmental outcomes. Stimulating activities may help children with specific skills, but also, and perhaps most importantly, by developing the child's ability and motivation concerned with learning generally..." ('Growing_Up_in_Scotland')
  • "Children exposed to chronic loud noise also experience a rise in blood pressure and stress hormones. And children as young as four are less motivated to perform on challenging language and pre-reading tasks under conditions of exposure to chronic noise." 
  • "...strained parent-child relationships negatively influence social, emotional, and biological measures in 10-to12 year-old children...parents in crowded homes speak less to their infants and use fewer complicated words during the period from infancy up to age two and a half." 
  • "Research has identified the physical characteristics of neighborhoods that significantly influence children's development. These characteristics include: residential instability, housing quality, noise, crowding, toxic exposure, quality of municipal services, retail services, recreational opportunities, including natural settings, street traffic, accessibility of transportation, and the physical quality of both educational and health facilities."
  • (
  • "The quality and stability of a child's human relationships in the early years lay the foundation for a wide range of later developmental outcomes that really matter – self confidence and sound mental health, motivation to learn, achievement in school and later in life, the ability to control aggressive impulses and resolve conflicts in nonviolent ways, knowing the difference between right and wrong, having the capacity to develop and sustain casual friendships and intimate relationships, and ultimately to be a successful parent oneself....Stated simply, relationships are the "active ingredients" of the environment's influence on healthy human development." (
  • TO SUM IT UP...
  • Basically, every element during child development, from the amount of loud noises and distractions there are in the home to residential environments impact children at an early age, molding their later developmental outcomes that help them succeed. 
Defining the problem
  • Audience #1: Who are we trying to help - Children who are still developing
  • Audience #2: Who are we reaching - Parents and Guardians
  • Stakeholders 
    • Internal: Organizations geared towards children
    • External: Investors, Sponsors, Funders
  • Positive and Negative
    • (+) anyone within the household
    • (-) people who profit from their circumstances and their disadvantaged situation
  • How are these people related to the problem?
    • Children in these environments are not given the right tools for success, thereby locking people into a certain lifestyle that encourages crime, a disparity of household income, and broken communities. 
    • Children can break out of their disadvantaged situation for the future of their families.
  • Needs of audience:
    • Children & Parents
      • basic needs (food, water)
      • role models for succes/mentors
      • supportive/encouraging environment (from parents)
      • extracurricular activities
      • self-sufficiency
  • How does idea support those needs for each?
    • Basic Needs: 
      • Programs that encourage interaction between the parents and children that reward with/provide monetary support
      • Programs where we provide education to parents on job preparation (writing a resume, doing an interview, etc.)
    • Role Models
    • Supportive Environments:
    • Extracurricular Activities:
    • Self-Sufficiency:
  • Who are we communicating this idea to?
    • Community leaders - because they set the environment for the community and can communicate with the members the importance of attending these programs and getting out of their situation.

Background Research
  • "The results showed that children whose homes had greater cognitive stimulation displayed higher academic motivation from ages 9 through 13. The effect of SES [socio-economic status] was indirect: Families of higher SES were more likely to provide cognitively stimulating home environments, which in turn directly increased academic motivation. The fact that home environment effects were both short- and long-term suggests that home environment continues to play a role in early adolescence when peer influence becomes more powerful." 
  • Six beliefs that can influence children's motivational beliefs:
    • attributions for the child's school performance
    • perceptions of the task difficulty of schoolwork
    • expectations and confidence in children's abilities
    • values for schoolwork
    • actual achievement standards
    • beliefs about barriers to success and strategies for overcoming these barriers
  • (
  • "Children who develop warm, positive relationships with their kindergarten teachers are more excited about learning, more positive about coming to school, more self-confident, and achieve more in the classroom."
  • "Stated simply, young children learn best in an interactive, relational model rather than through an educational model that focuses on rote instruction." 
  • "...poverty reduction requires a life-cycle approach that begins during the early years before formal schooling to ensure school readiness, involves the family and other proximal contexts, and focuses on the indirect processes linking poverty to child development and educational outcomes. There are no magic bullets that can be applied across all settings. Both individual characteristics and contextual factors determine how children can benefit from educational opportunities and over the course of time, escape from poverty." (
  • Recommendations for Future Programs and Policies to Improve Children’s Development and Educational Outcomes in the Context of Poverty: 
  • TO SUM IT UP...
  • This issue of school readiness has many factors that involve strategies by "governments, communities, and families." Overall, higher quality teachers who provide support and encouragement to their students and parents who are involved that create a good environment at home seem to have the largest impact on child development in terms of education. 
Defining the problem
  • Audience #1: Children
  • Audience #2: Teachers, School leaders, the community
  • Stakeholders
  • Pos and Neg Impacts
    • (+) communities, children 
    • (-) taxpayers
  • How are these people related to the problem?
    • Children and teachers can be given the tools to a better high-paying job
    • To each other?
  • Audiences' Needs:
    • Teachers
      • more resources
      • higher pay - funding
      • teacher assistants/student teachers
    • Parents & Children
      • encouragement/support
      • children need support from parents
  • How does idea support those needs for each?
    • A program that holds book clubs for children and collaborates with local bookstores and libraries that encourages reading and literacy
    • Extracurricular activities where children can play games and learn in the process
  • Who are we communicating this need to?
    • Board of Education - improvement on programs for primary education
    • Teachers - to be informed on how to best assist developing children
Background Research
The 1880s were a period of economic boom for Kansas City and much of the United States. Moderately priced homes were built in the east on either side of the Paseo corridor. The homes were built on speculation, and when the economy crashed in 1890, contractors and backers panicked. Desperate for buyers, the home prices dropped, opening them up to the less-affluent African-American community. At this time many African-Americans relocated to what became "Negro Quality Hill" east of the Paseo near 24th Street due to the proximity to public transportation. 

Property values became a widespread concern among whites and zoning ordinances were first established and passed by the city council in 1923, in efforts to keep blacks on the east side. By 1940, the most concentrated areas of African-Americans in Kansas City were east of Troost, though there were pockets elsewhere. Prior to desegregation, Lincoln High School and its feeder junior high schools east of Troost offered the only post-elementary education to blacks, further growing the population of African-American residents in jazz district now know as 18th and Vine. 

In the decades before desegregation, there was another major player at work shaping the neighborhoods of Kansas City. Real estate developer J.C. Nichols was instrumental in developing the Country Club Plaza, which still reigns as a major commercial part of Kansas City and the neighborhoods that surround the area. Nichols orchestrated a "white flight" of sorts from the east side to his developments west of Troost by inducing "panic-selling" and blockbusting. 

In addition, Nichols' restrictive covenants all but ensured blacks and Jews would not be able to move into the Country Club Plaza. Just after Nichols' death, major changes to the public schools in Kansas City, and across the nation, became the impetus to explicitly use Troost to divide the city. In 1955, the all-white KCMO School board did not resist the Supreme Court ruling that ordered the desegregation of public schools. But, the members did manipulate attendance boundaries to ensure white schools were separated from black schools. Troost was the most obvious border. Inequality within the educational system dates back to the Jim Crow Laws each state enacted from 1876 – 1965. The state of Missouri stated, "Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored..."

Defining the Problem
  • Audience #1: Who are we trying to help - children of all races
  • Audience #2: Who are we trying to reach - community leaders from different social backgrounds (upper - lower class)
  • Stakeholders:
    • External - Investors, sponsors, funders...celebrities who want better social personalities
    • Internal - Organizations that encourage diversity
  • Impacts
    • (+) - lower class families
    • (-) - ignorant upper class families
  • How are these people related to the problem?
    • Everyone in the community perpetuates divisions by race/income which creates hostile environments. 
  • Needs of audience
    • Education - awareness
    • Motivation for integration
    • A safe zone for people of all societal backgrounds
  • Ideas for each need
    • A program to raise awareness about the importance of diversity and integration for all people of different backgrounds in order to create a safe zone for people of all backgrounds
    • A place where children can share their own stories
  • Who are you communicating this need to?
    • Community leaders to speak to each of their members personally

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