Natasha McKenzie, an infant and toddler lead teacher at Stony Brook Child Care Services (SBCCSI), has been awarded the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s Tylenol National Child Care Teacher Award for her proposal, “Tasting Friendship Soup.” Natasha received one of the top 10 scores and was invited to attend a ceremony in Philadelphia to receive her award.
“It was an honor to attend the award ceremony and see Natasha recognized nationally as one of the top ten award recipients,” said SBCCSI Executive Director Mary Cain. “I am proud of her commitment to providing children with the best care and early learning experiences.”
McKenzie wanted to use her classroom garden to help develop the children’s understanding of how vegetables grow. “I wanted to expand the use of our outdoor garden by incorporating cooking activities and inviting other classrooms in our center to come and observe plant growth, talk about nutrition, participate in story time and help create a ‘friendship’ soup made from harvested vegetables,” she said.
Children helped plant and nurture the vegetables. Mature vegetables were then used for art activities, science experiments and taste tests. Books were also included to expand teachable moments and foster early literacy.
“I have been an early childhood educator for the past 17 years,” McKenzie said. “It is a privilege to work in an NAEYC-accredited center that has faith in the fundamental importance of how a combination of play and interactive activities can foster curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking conducive to early academic growth and socialization. In my classroom each child is given the opportunity to explore in a family-oriented atmosphere free of stereotypical ideologies. Children are encouraged to formulate an understanding of their personal environment and achieve accomplishments while at the same time create lasting memories and lifelong learning habits.”
McKenzie was also awarded the Marcia Brady Excellence in Early Care and Education Award (Brady Excellence Award) at the annual 2015 SUNY Child Care Conference. The honor was presented by the SEEL SUNY Early Care and Education Leaders Group and recognizes quality child care within the SUNY Child Care Community.