Eastern Unveils 2016 TIMPANI Toy Study Results

– Plus-Plus® received the highest overall score in this year’s study.

– Plus-Plus® received the highest overall score in this year’s study.

Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced on Dec. 12 that “Plus-Plus®,” a toy made by the Danish company Plus-Plus®, has been named the 2016 TIMPANI (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination) Toy.

The annual toy study, which is now in its eighth year, investigates how

Plus Plus in action at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) on the Eastern campus

Plus Plus in action at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) on the Eastern campus.

young children play with a variety of toys in natural settings.  This year, 10 toys were selected for the study by teachers, faculty and student researchers.  The toys were placed in preschool classrooms in Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys.  Researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization.

Plus-Plus® (Midi size) received the highest overall score in this year’s study.  It also scored the highest in the “thinking and learning” and “creativity and imagination” subscales.  In addition, the toy scored very highly with both boys and girls and with children from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Rachel Borden, an art and early childhood education student involved in the study, noted how working on the study will influence her future teaching practices. “I will definitely think about the toys that I put in my classroom. Some toys are great for imagination, while others may be great at fostering thinking and decision making. If I really want my students to work on socializing more, I’ll pick a toy that’s going to help and foster that.”

Rachel Borden, an art and early childhood education student involved in the study, noted how working on the study will influence her future teaching practices. “I will definitely think about the toys that I put in my classroom. Some toys are great for imagination, while others may be great at fostering thinking and decision making. If I really want my students to work on socializing more, I’ll pick a toy that’s going to help and foster that.”

Leah Slawinowski, a psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study, said, “I think that Plus-Plus did really well overall because you can do so many different things with it.  Children could build simple structures and develop their fine motor skills, or build something to be used in an elaborate pretend-play scenario.”

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and PhyllisWaite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, noted, “Plus-Plus is a construction toy, and we’ve found from previous research that construction toys do very well on our evaluation rubric.  As children are building with these toys, they’re creating designs; they’re testing out their designs; they’re re-building their structures.  So if you think about it, construction toys like Plus-Plus are really simple engineering tools for very young children.”  Plus-Plus® is the fourth construction toy to be named the TIMPANI toy of the year since the study began in 2010.

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study, addresses the TIMPANI press conference

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study, addresses the TIMPANI press conference.

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687 or visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/.

Eastern’s Day of Giving 2016 Huge Success

Former Sen. Edith Prague and Student Health Services Director Robert Jennette serve food at Day of Giving.

Former Sen. Edith Prague and Student Health Services Director Robert Jennette serve food at Day of Giving.

More than 800 Willimantic residents converged on Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 23 when the University hosted its 10th annual Day of Giving. Day of Giving, providing a hot holiday meal to people who otherwise may not have been able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

day of giving student volunteersIn conjunction with the Day of Giving, members of the Eastern community donated more than 2,100 canned food items and raised more than $1,400 for local food pantries and shelters.

Volunteers pose for a picture at Day of Giving

Volunteers pose for a picture at Day of Giving.

The Day of Giving is sponsored by Eastern’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which partners with the Covenant Soup Kitchen and other social service agencies in Willimantic that help to promote the event and provide transportation to Eastern. The turkeys were provided by the ECSU Foundation, which also provided transportation for guests; other food was donated by Chartwells, Eastern’s food provider.

Biology Professor Elizabeth Cowles serves food at Day of Giving

Biology Professor Elizabeth Cowles serves food at Day of Giving.

“For the residents of Ashton Tower, Wilbur Cross and Father Honan Terrace, the Day of Giving means sharing and spending times with friends and meeting new people,” said Arka Mikel, director of social services at the Willimantic Housing Authority.

Provost Dimitrios Pachis has fun helping at Day of Giving

Provost Dimitrios Pachis has fun helping at Day of Giving.

“Eastern is proud to support our local community in so many ways: through providing volunteers to area nonprofits, schools and municipalities; by encouraging students, faculty and staff to ‘buy local’ and support businesses in Windham; and by serving community members who might otherwise not have a Thanksgiving meal,” said CCE Director Kim Silcox.

The Day of Giving was founded by alumnus Jason Budahazy ’09 in 2007. He currently lives in California, but in his absence, his father, Jay Budahazy, attended the event. “I don’t think anybody ever anticipated this getting so huge,” he said. “There’s more and more of a call for it every year. This is probably the best meal some of these people will have all year. People say one person can’t make a difference. I think this goes to show that yes they can.”

Students Warm Up Shackathon

A group of Shackathon participants takes time from building their cardboard shelters for a group photo

A group of Shackathon participants takes time from building their cardboard shelters for a group photo.

Twenty members of the Eastern chapter of Habitat for Humanity slept outdoors in cardboard boxes on Nov. 2–3 for the annual “Shackathon.” The event aims to raise awareness of homelessness, as well as raise funds for the club’s annual spring break trip. This coming spring students will travel to North Carolina to build houses for those in need with other Habitat for Humanity chapters. “We were very lucky to have such a nice night out,” said club president Kaitlin Wilson, acknowledging that with temperatures in the 50s, it was unseasonably warm. Previous Shackathon events weren’t so lucky; last year temperatures dipped into the 20s.

shackathon student taping up his shelterIn a 24-hour span in their cardboard village situated in front of Webb Hall, the club raised nearly $200 from those passing by. This and other fundraising efforts will support the club’s trip to North Carolina.  Wilson concluded, “Sleeping in boxes for a night really makes you consider the things we take for granted. The event was a huge success and we look forward to doing it again next year.”

Veterans are “a Rather Elite Group”

Colonel Frederick Miclon Jr

Colonel Frederick Miclon Jr.

Colonel Frederick Miclon Jr., director of staff at the Joint Force Headquarters for the Connecticut National Guard, delivered the keynote address on Veteran’s Day during Eastern’s special tribute to the men and women who serve in the nation’s military.  Six hundred veterans and active service personnel teach and work at Eastern, and 300 students are veterans.

Miclon, an Iraq War veteran, said that since the American Revolution, more than 42 million Americans have served during times of war, not including the three to four million currently fighting in the global War on Terror since 2001. “42 million sounds like a very large number, but when you put it in perspective, less than one half of one percent of all Americans are currently serving in the military, making it a rather elite group.”

Miclon concluded by saying, “Whether it is in life or in death, not just on Veterans

Honor Guard

Honor Guard

Day, it is important for us to not only recognize our veterans, but to educate our children and young adults of the many sacrifices made since the days of the revolution by men and women who answered the call.  Without that knowledge, it is difficult to understand and appreciate the cost of freedom and the price paid for the rights we enjoy as Americans.”

Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Eastern President Elsa Nunez noted that her grandfather served in World War I; her father in World War II; and her brother in the Vietnam War, and that seven and a half years after opening its Veteran’s Center, Eastern is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the 15 most veteran-friendly campuses in the North.

Eastern Hosts Conference on Civic Action

Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement

Kim Silcox, director of the Center for Community Engagement

Recognizing the value of giving back, Eastern students have engaged in some form of community service for decades. The University raised the bar on civic responsibility in 2009 when it established the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).

The CCE has strengthened the concept of giving back by implementing the concept of service learning, a research-based teaching and learning strategy that incorporates course learning with projects that are mutually beneficial to students, faculty and the community.

On Nov. 18, the CCE hosted the Civic Action Conference to review the value of service learning, and to assess progress on its goal of teaching students how to be critical thinkers, make good decisions, solve problems and become leaders who have a better understanding of themselves and the world around them

The conference was the first step in the creation of a task force, which will work on developing Eastern’s Civic Action Plan. This initiative was created by Campus Compact and promoted by President Elsa Núñez.

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Student and Faculty Achievements

SLM Student James Doucette Presents in Florida

James Doucette

James Doucette

Sport and leisure management (SLM) major James Doucette ’17 presented his research in Tampa, FL, this past November at the annual conference of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS). The East Hartford native presented “A Kantian Dilemma: Gender Discrimination toward Contemporary Women’s Elite Sport,” and was accompanied by his advisor Professor Ari de Wilde.  “My research focused on combining sport sociology with ethics to achieve gender equity for female athletes,” said Doucette. “It was well received, as it fit well with the conference’s theme of ‘Publicly Engaged Sociology of Sport.’”
Doucette’s presentation was based on a paper he developed over the course of three semesters at Eastern, starting with a course on ethics taught by Professor Hope Fitz and concluding with his SLM independent study with de Wilde.

Faculty Achievements

Eunice Matthews-Armstead, right, discusses the chapter she wrote in a new book titled "State of Black Hartford

Eunice Matthews-Armstead, right, discusses the chapter she wrote in a new book titled “State of Black Hartford.”

More than 500 people converged on The Artist Collective in Hartford on Nov. 18 to hear Eastern Sociology Professor Eunice Matthews-Armstead and others participate in discuss

Black Hartford Audience

“The State of Black Hartford,” an updated examination of the social, education, economic, employment, health, political and faith challenges of African Americans in Hartford.  The original book was published in 1994.  The event was sponsored by the Greater Hartford Urban League; the book revision was made possible through a grant by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Matthews-Armstead’s research introduces the social health index of Blackmatthews close up Hartford, a composite measuring 13 social indicators representing a board range of social conditions examined annually over the period from 2005 to 2012. Matthews found that the average index score of 52.3 percent for African Americans in Hartford fell below that of whites in Hartford (54.1 percent) and African Americans in Connecticut as a whole at 54.8 percent. “Black Hartford is an ethnically diverse community with a rich cultural heritage and proud history of activism,” said Matthews-Armstead. “Like the canary that alerts miners of poisons in the air, marginalized communities such as Black Hartford can alert the public to the perils that exist in our social structure.”

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Sibling Weekend: A Successful, Fun Family Affair!

Ivone Barcenas, left,Garcia, center and Daniela Iniestra Varelas and (R) Abigail Demarkey

Ivone Barcenas, left,Garcia, center and Daniela Iniestra Varelas and (R) Abigail Demarkey

On Nov. 12-13, Eastern held its first Sibling Weekend, and a merry time was enjoyed by all. Sibling Weekend aimed to provide a fun overnight experience for siblings, cousins and children between the ages of 5-15 who otherwise would not be able to stay overnight.

 The magician with Abby Bazin, center, and Jae-Dyn Hartigan, assisting with a trick.

The magician with Abby Bazin, center, and Jae-Dyn Hartigan, assisting with a trick.

The day included a frolic on a mechanical bull; a romp in a bouncy house; a belly of laughs with a magician; playful balloon and caricature artists; a fun photo booth; arts and crafts, games and a movie.

Karissa Correnti and siblings Kaylee and Isabella.

Karissa Correnti and siblings Kaylee and Isabella.

Angela Bazin, associate director of housing, said she hopes Sibling Weekend will become an annual event. “I was excited to finally have our first sibling event because University and Housing policies do not allow for younger siblings to spend the night on campus, as regular guests have to be older than 16 to stay overnight.

Hall Directors Manny Llano-Martinez, Alicia McKenzie, Joshua Sumrell and Arlene Theodore, who worked to put the event together.

Hall Directors Manny Llano-Martinez, Alicia McKenzie, Joshua Sumrell and Arlene Theodore, who worked to put the event together.

I had brought up this weekend idea few times before, but this year we were able to get others on board, and it was such a fun event to help plan and attend. You got to play all day and let yourself go, reliving parts of your younger years with your younger siblings; it just doesn’t get any better than that. The guests all had a great time and we got great feedback. I am hoping next year’s event can be even bigger.”

The Chatterbox Players Perform “The Bishop’s Wife

The Chatterbox Players

The Chatterbox Players

Eastern hosted an old-time radio performance of the holiday classic “The Bishop’s Wife” on Dec. 10 in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center. The show was performed by the Chatterbox Players and aired live on 90.1-FM WECS radio.

“Before there was television, America was entertained with radio and theatre of the mind,” said Christine Guarnieri ’03, director of the Chatterbox Players, referring to the format of the show. “Audience members experience what it was like to listen and not watch the action; it’s about the music, the harmony of the voices, the sound effects.”

Reading off scripts like they did during the Golden Age of Radio (1920-50), 12 actors told the story of “The Bishop’s Wife,” a Christmas movie released in 1947. “It’s a timely story for this season,” said Guarnieri. “It’s about people who have money, but don’t understand that they can’t buy happiness. It’s about the spirit of giving for the right reasons.”

The actors have been rehearsing since October, and included Eastern alumni and faculty, as well as local community members and children. “Some of these people have terrific radio voices,” added Guarnieri. “They love to act, and this gives them a different way to do it.”

The Chatterbox Players have performed a holiday show at Eastern for the past five years. The group is an offshoot of Guarnieri’s radio show, “Chatterbox Old-Time Radio,” which has aired on Eastern’s radio station, 90.1-FM WECS, for 16 years on Saturday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight. The evening opened and closed with music by The Nickelodeons, a local barbershop quartet. Audience members took home a holiday gift via an end-of-show raffle.

Music Program Hosts Bounty of Concerts

Concluding the night, all of the ensembles joined for a finale performance of “O Fortuna.”

Concluding the night, all of the ensembles joined for a finale performance of “O Fortuna.”

Eastern’s Music Program hosted a variety of musical performances throughout November and December.  On Nov. 22 it presented “Eastern Concert Chorale and Friends,” featuring the Eastern Chamber Singers, Men’s and Women’s Choirs, Concert Chorale and special guest E.O. Smith Chamber Choir.  “We are delighted to present this concert featuring choral masterworks by great composers such as Brahms, Schumann and Faure, as well as shorter works by great poets like Robert Burns, Robert Frost and E. E. Cummings,” said David Belles, music professor at Eastern and conductor of the Chamber Singers. “It is especially great to invite E. O. Smith Chamber Singers to share the stage this evening!”

Special guest E.O. Smith Chamber Choir from E. O. Smith High School in Storrs-Mansfield

Special guest E.O. Smith Chamber Choir from E. O. Smith High School in Storrs-Mansfield

The Chamber Singers is Eastern’s premiere vocal ensemble, and is composed of 20-25 auditioned singers. Repertoire performed by the Chamber Singers encompasses chamber music from more than four centuries. The Men’s and Women’s Ensembles, conducted by Belles and Music Professor Emily Riggs, respectively, provide Eastern students with an additional opportunity to participate in a smaller student-only ensemble. Students who sing with the Men’s and Women’s Ensembles are also members of the Concert Chorale.

The concert also included guest performances from the E.O. Smith Chamber Choir, conducted by Amanda Sprague Hanzlik, and a variety of choral works, including selections from Brahms’ “Ein Deutches Requiem,” performed by the Eastern Concert Chorale. The Eastern choral ensembles also collaborated with members of the Percussion Ensemble and the E.O. Smith Chamber Choir to perform Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” from “Carmina Burana.” The Concert Chorale focuses on choral and orchestral masterworks, as well as shorter choral selections. This ensemble is open to Eastern faculty, staff and students, and members of the community.

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Those Who Are Eastern Give . . . Generously!

WARRIORSOn Nov. 29, Eastern launched #WarriorsGive, the University’s first 24-hour online giving campaign.  Coinciding with “Giving Tuesday,” Eastern’s faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends were encouraged to go online and donate any amount to any designation.  The campaign was promoted through email and social media, and a challenge from President Elsa Núñez added to the excitement.  The President agreed to match the first $5,000 raised if a goal of 100 donors was met.

By 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 29, that goal was surpassed and 145 members of the Eastern community had contributed to #WarriorsGive.  With the $5,000 match from President Núñez, the total raised in one day was $22,531. The donations went to 36 different designations ranging from Men’s Lacrosse to the Music Department to the Student Research Scholarship.  The majority of gifts were made to the Annual Fund for Student Excellence, which supports all aspects of student life at Eastern.  Regardless of the size or designation, the positive impact of these gifts will be felt all across Eastern’s campus.  Thank you to everyone who made a donation on Giving Tuesday and showed that #WarriorsGive!

Expanded Pride Center Celebrates Grand Opening

Pride ribbon-cuttingStudents, faculty and staff joined President Elsa Núñez and other University officials on Nov. 11 for the grand opening of the new Pride Center in Student Center’s Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing. “This a proud moment for all of us,” said Starsheemar Byrum, director of the Unity Wing, in welcoming the crowd of well-wishers. Byrum noted that Eastern’s commitment to supporting community members regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation has created a strong, richly diverse campus.

President Núñez described the role of the original Pride Room opened in 2010, which served as a safe haven for members of the LBGT community, sponsored social activities and promoted the exploration of issues related to gender equity and sexuality.  Núñez then described a new book, “Well Being and Higher Education,” which includes a chapter she wrote on identity development. “As I noted in the chapter I wrote, gender and sexual identity is a central part of a person’s sense of well-being and the quality of a person’s life — and, as it turns out, on a person’s learning.  Gender identity development is a fundamental activity on any college campus seeking to enhance student well-being . . . It is my hope that through the leadership of the Pride Center, we can provide all students with resources to help them explore, affirm, and internalize their gender identity, so that it can be a common developmental process shared by all students, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Theatre Professor David Pellegrini

Theatre Professor David Pellegrini

Theatre Professor David Pellegrini was the next speaker, describing his experiences as a gay man growing up in New York City and living in California before moving to Connecticut.  “In my 17 years here, I have always felt that Eastern has been a welcoming place,” he said.

“Today I am as proud as I have ever been of Eastern,” said SGA President Harrison Brooks. “This expanded Pride Center provides equal accommodations to our LGBT community.  The Unity Wing is now complete!”

Other speakers included Carolyn Taggart, university assistant in the Pride Center, and student Colleen Hart.  After formal remarks, the speaking party cut a ribbon to commemorate the grand opening.

Club Football Wins North Atlantic Championship

Football ChampionsEastern’s club football team won the North Atlantic Conference Championship of the National Club Football Association (NCFA), beating Sacred Heart University 19-14 on Nov. 11 and avenging the team’s sole regular season loss.  The team lost in the national semi-finals in Erie, PA, to Oakland University of Rochester, MI, on Nov. 19, with a final score of 35-18.

The football team joins the rugby and ice hockey teams as regional champions in the past year. The team’s first season was fall 2011, with head coach Bruce Haney for its first four seasons (2011-14).  Glenn Doughty has coached the past two years, with the team playing its home games on E.O. Smith’s turf field.  With an overall record of 6-2 and the prospects of 23 likely returning players for next season, the club has a bright future ahead.

Tarchee Brown is Player-of-the-Week

Tarchee Brown

Tarchee Brown

Junior guard Tarchee Brown scored 20 of his game and season-high total of 29 points in the second half as the Warriors raced from a six-point halftime lead to a 90-63 Little East Conference victory over Rhode Island College recently in Providence.  The point total moved Brown within 32 points of 1,000 in his career.