by Jermell Witherspoon, Zeno Early Learning Specialist

People, coming together to create space for gifts, talents, passions, and the meeting of basic needs in the shallowest of terms, is a definition of community.

Zeno not only celebrates the power of math, we celebrate the power of community. Before ever beginning work with a new partner, Zeno builds trust and rapport with communities through listening sessions with the families and providers. The next step is co-creation, or working in partnership with communities to leverage the “mathy” activities already happening, and layer math onto existing programs for preschool-age children. The outcome? A positive, inclusive math culture where everyone believes they can do math.

Zeno’s latest adventure has been with the beautiful community of Pasco, one of three cities that make up the Tri-Cities region of the state of Washington. We, like most organizations, do all we think is necessary in order to be “ready” for the task ahead of us, in the communities we serve. While deep preparation is important, there is nothing more gratifying than being present and open to unexpected opportunities to grow.    

The level of interest and responsiveness to Zeno’s program was one that I don’t think we could have fully prepared for. The clear desire of childcare providers to want to grow and expand the minds of the children they serve was more than we could have ever expected. It is not easy welcoming strangers into your home, or even listening to what they have to say. Its not easy trusting that a group of people you don’t know much about have your children’s best interest in mind. While it’s not always easy welcoming people into a tight knit community, it sometimes happens, and word quickly spread about an organization from Seattle that was radically welcoming, willing to learn, and devoted to teaching.  

Zeno’s intention was to pilot the program with 10 Spanish-speaking, home-based childcare providers in Pasco, predominantly serving the children of local agricultural workers. Much to our surprise and delight, over 30 childcare providers showed up to the first training Zeno facilitated. We looked around and made a decision in that moment that if these families were ready to work with us, we would find a way to work with each of them. And that’s just what we did! Everyone was welcomed and provided with materials needed to expand their early math learning with the children in their care.

The people of Pasco not only came to the first meeting, they have been present at every meeting since. There has been a consistency from the Pasco community that fuels my 3.5 hour drive each month. The Pasco community continues to welcome me into their homes, and has been consistent in their hunger to grow with Zeno. The providers are not only eager to receive the materials from Zeno, they are eager to use everything we provide to enhance the spaces they serve the children in. The information given is used and valued in each home, that is clear every time I step into the centers and am bombarded by excited children, wanting to tell me all about what they have done with their Zeno games since the last time we were together. The Pasco Community has extended their hand to me, and for that I am grateful.

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