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Early Childhood Parent University

Through parent education, delivered by early childhood settings, parents will better understand and celebrate early development milestones.

Photo of Erin Carey

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Through several conversations and suggestions from other members, we have considered translating our modules into other languages once they have been completed and tested in English. We have also considered using a Parent Network to disseminate and "advertise" the modules, from a suggestion that was offered by a contributor.

Name or Organization

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School - Preschool


Our program is located in Sandy Springs, a suburb of Atlanta, GA.

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

In the realm of Early Childhood, educators often see a disconnect between what parents remember as their first experiences in school (often Kindergarten or First Grade) and what they are seeing in their children's classrooms. We hope to help parents celebrate the current developmental stages of their children without trying to rush forward in the progression of skills to get to what they remember school to be like. Through intentional parent education, early childhood educators can help parents to realize that early educational settings can and should be more than just child care.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Early Childhood Parent University aims to provide parent education to address the importance of early learning for infants and toddlers in Sandy Springs, GA, later expanding to other opportunities for international settings.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

The problem we are intending to solve for is the lack of easily accessible, accurate information on early childhood development for parents of young children. Although there is a lot of Early Ed information out there, not all of it is parent friendly, based on the most current research, or focused on more than simple heath and physical development. By providing face-to-face as well as online workshops for parents, we hope to provide parents with increased understanding and comfortability.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Initially, we have piloted providing one-on-one parent education sessions through the parent-teacher conferences held three times each year. In addition to information about each individual child's current developmental stages, parents are provided with a snapshot of the progression of the skills their children are developing every day. For example, infant parents are provided information on the gross motor development of their child, but are also taught about what skills built up to their child's current stage of development as well as what will come next.
Additionally, monthly in-person small group workshops are being curated and offered for parents to learn more about developmental stages, curricular work, growth and development in social and emotional growth. We would love to add online and/or reproducible and accessible models for parent education that would be available to schools beyond our area.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Initial beneficiaries would be the parents that are able to attend the Early Childhood Parent University modules, either in person or online. Extending from that, we expect benefits to reach those parents' children, extended families, and parent friend networks. We are hoping that through the information gained in these modules, parents will be more informed about the developmental growth of their children, be better able to advocate for them, if necessary, ask more informed questions and have more realistic expectations when it comes to interacting with teachers in their early learning environments.
We interact with our beneficiaries (parents in our Early Learning Center and Preschool) on a daily basis, with more intense interactions following our three conferences every year and through these piloted Early Childhood Parent University workshops that have been rolled out so far this year as happening every other month. In addition to anecdotal feedback that these sessions (one on one with classroom teachers or in a small group setting with administrators) have been informative and helpful, parents have started to request even more developmental information, which has caused us to start thinking about this innovation in new and different ways and wondering how we can cast the net more widely by offering some of this information in online modules.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

We are hopeful that this idea could have a long-lasting impact, not only for the families that we serve directly, here at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, but also into a wider community. By providing parents with realistic, research-based information on the development of their young children, we hope to help them, not only when their children are young, but to build in them the desire to be more informed and involved on current educational practices well into their children's futures. Ideally this would help with parent engagement, parent understanding, and could even lead to systemic education change if parents ask the right questions and remain informed and interested in their children's school's educational practices past early childhood and into their elementary and secondary education years.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Initially, we are testing out our idea with our parent population that is made up of mostly middle to upper-middle class families. While we know that this is a limited pilot group, we are hoping that through further prototyping and specifying what and how the information is disseminated through the Early Childhood Parent University, we hope to be able to offer, at least the online modules, if not some of the in-person modules in a no- or low-cost setting, making the information that would be shared and access to these resources more widely available to families with children in all socio-economic groups. Where internet availability would have proven a barrier even a few years ago, smart phones and public access to internet have become so much more prevalent that we believe these online modules will be the best way to allow wide-spread access at times that are convenient for parents working all sorts of schedules.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

While we have seen many different parent education programs and platforms, we have not yet found one that provides the comprehensive, research-based information that our parents have come to desire and that we prefer to share. By using parent feedback and providing relevant information to parents of young children, we hope to help them to make the best choices for their children that they can. By providing this service both in person and online, we are hoping to be as flexible as possible to reach as many parents as would like to learn. We know that parents have different work schedules and flexibilities in their days and so by offering shorter modules at their convenience, we will be able to reach even those parents who have schedules that would otherwise keep them from being involved in these sorts of workshops.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Initially our market is only the parents in our school, reaching about 100 families. Eventually, we hope to offer this service, first to other partner schools, then to other schools at large for a small fee, then we would look into the feasibility of what modules could be offered for no-cost, or how we might partner with a group or school to provide a significant reduction in cost to keep this up, but also to provide the service to a larger audience. We would love to provide this as a subscription service to area schools, as well as later providing more options in order to increase offerings and marketability in different realms.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

We are still in the discovery phase of determining long-term feasibility as well as technical upkeep. We are determined to have this offering for the parents at our school, but are still determining staff, technical, and operational needs in order to scale this in the way that we would like.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Market analysis would need to be done before each phase of development and roll out. At this point we do not have the amount of information needed to determine the relative success in the market. Pricing, subscription services, market response, and other options available in different markets will be the deciding factors in this.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

We have used parent feedback, in the form of survey results and informal interviews, as well as teacher feedback in some conversations about parent questioning shifts after participating in one of the one-on-one meetings.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

It might be helpful to partner with a university or other organization to offer CEU's at some point.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

Technical help of creating online modules for the future would be a great help. Also, organization of tiers of support could be a helpful

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

Name or Organization

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Early Learning Center


Sandy Springs, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Iliriana Kacaniku

Hey Erin Carey 
Welcome to the Early Childhood Innovation Prize. We're thrilled to host your idea and help it grow through our human-centered design approach and toolkits. I love reading your idea about Early Childhood Parent University and would like to learn what is the age range of children in your school, and how will their age distribution contribute to curriculum development? In the meantime, i'd encourage you to explore few ideas in the platform that seek to support parents through e-tools in organizing and running activities to foster child's development. Some of them have very interesting curricula developed in partnership with ECD experts and may serve as tested inspirations for you.

Best regards,

Photo of Erin Carey

Thank you for your comment and suggestion! I have been reading a lot of the other submissions and hope to contribute to some soon. Our school actually serves children from Infants as young as six weeks, all the way through 12th grade. This idea is geared toward the parents of our Infants through Pre-K aged children. We are excited to look at examples that are existing and see if there are collaboration opportunities, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

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