The Challenge in Providing Quality School-Age Programming

 

School-Age child care providers often face unique challenges.  During the school year, children can be in care for a very short period of time making it difficult to plan for them, many times programs have to share space with other programs requiring some to set-up and take down each day, staff may have to work long hours starting early in the morning and ending later in the evening, and school-age child care staff may find that classroom teachers won’t make the time and effort to communicate with them about the needs of children in their care. Having said that, though, quality school-age programs can excite children about learning, provide time to socialize with their friends, give them an opportunity to explore their own interests, help them learn new skills, provide them with needed exercise, and offer caring staff who will listen to them and help them deal with issues at home or in school.  In short, quality school-age programs can be the highlight of a child’s day!

Although the School-Age Environment Rating Scale (updated version) is the least used of all the Environment Rating Scales in Iowa, over a three-year period I have seen enough programs to come to some generalizations about areas where program typically lose points at the good level of quality.  I would like to share this information with those who would like or need more information about the SACERS-U in the event you work with a program preparing for an assessment or a program that wants to improve the care they provide school-age children.

  • Materials should be age and developmentally appropriate.  There are some materials such as blocks or some art materials that are appropriate for both school-age and preschool groups.  But if a program shares space with a preschool, there should be materials appropriate for the ages of the children in the school-age group.  For example, some primary age children will enjoy picture books, but others may enjoy chapter books like Junie B. Jones or the Magic Tree House series. A solution some programs have found is to have materials on carts that they bring out during the program day. More suggestions for appropriate materials can be found in specific activity items on the SACERS-U scale.  Materials should be accessible for at least 30 minutes in a typical after-school program of three hours or more.
  • A considerable amount of softness must also be accessible to the children and appropriate for their size.  A small vinyl preschool chair or a blanket and a few pillow on a hard floor is not enough for a school-age child to escape the hardness of a typical classroom.  But a couch in the music or listening area and bean bag chairs and several large pillow in the reading area would meet this requirement.  It is also important to remember that many soft furnishings must be accessible for at least one third of the time they are in care, at the good level of quality.
  • Two items address child-size seating.  I am reminded of Goldilocks when I observe some school-agers in various seating arrangements.  Sometimes it’s just not quite right.  Programs that share space may have adult-size tables and chairs or preschool-sized seating arrangements.  At the good level of quality, 75 percent of the tables and chairs must be child-size (feet touch the floor, sit waist high at the table, with legs resting comfortably under the table).
  • Interactions are as important as materials and furnishings.  Sometimes school-age providers want to give children enough time to relax, play and visit with their friends.  This is certainly important, and it is important that the school-age child care program not replicate the school day.  However, providers do have the opportunity to complement the school day.  Staff can encourage children to use reading, writing and math in practical situations as children pursue their own interests.  This practice helps children see that what they are learning in school applies to everyday situations.  We must observe this if credit is to be given.  Staff should also engage children in meaningful conversations – there should be several turns for the children and staff to talk.  Open-ended questions (why or how) that require longer and more complex answers should also be asked.
  • A variety of gross motor activities must be provided that stimulate a variety of skills. At the good level of quality, there must be five different skills made possible by stationary equipment and five different skills made possible by portable equipment.  Also, keep in mind that outdoor play activities should occur daily, weather permitting.  Surfacing in and around equipment requiring cushioning must also be adequate.

 

What challenges do you find school-age providers encounter?  How do you help them overcome these challenges?

 

Resources:

Harms, T., Jacobs, H. & Romano, D. (2014) School-Age Environment Rating Scale (updated).  New York: Teachers College Press.

http://ersi.info/PDF/playground_revised_10-3-13.pdf

http://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/Files/HCCI/weatherwatch.pdf

 

 

kristenc

kristenc

Kris Corrigan is an Environment Rating Scale Assessor with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has been in her current position for three years. She enjoys meeting and working with providers who are committed to providing quality environments for the children in their care. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family including her four cats.

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What About 3-D Art?

REMINDER: Please do not share the following blog post or URL. This is a private blog with the intentions for you to share experiences and to receive further clarification and information related to the Environment Rating Scales.

The Environment Rating Scales mention three dimensional art in two items throughout the scales: display and art. Within theses items, the scales look for materials to encourage 3-D art creations and for 3-D art to be displayed in the classroom.

Three dimensional art has height, width, and depth. This type of artwork can be looked at from many different sides and angles. Three dimensional art gives children the opportunity to experiment with shapes and space and create art similar to how they see the world. “Children express and represent what they observe, think, imagine, and feel through three-dimensional art” (HighScope).

It’s more than pasting something on a piece of paper or painting a pre-made figurine. Materials for 3-D art encourage children to build up, and out. Examples include: clay, playdough, paper towel tubes, Styrofoam pieces, straws, craft sticks, and egg crates. Check out some examples of three dimensional art created by children.

3D_straws_bing 3D shells_bing 3D pipecleaners_bing 3D pipecleaners and foam_bing 3D clay and sticks_bing

 

 

 

 

 

Children often spend lots of time and put great effort into their 3D creations. How can their creations be displayed and prevent them from being damaged? Some programs may have a shelf or counter set aside just for this purpose. Other programs, the teacher may need to tap into her imagination and resources. It’s not like we can laminate 3-dimentions pieces and place them on the wall or back of shelves. Besides the top of shelves or countertops, some programs have used windowsills or ledges. If possible, some projects could be hung from the ceiling. One program was really creative and attached fruit baskets to the wall so children could display their clay creatures. What are some other ways you have seen programs display three dimensional art creations?

3D_display_lab school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Arts. (n.d.). Retrieved May 26, 2016, from http://www.highscope.org/Content.asp?ContentId=295

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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Can Providers Use Pack-n-Plays/ Play Yards for Nap?

If you look at the additional notes for the safety practices item in the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised (FCCERS-R), it lists as an example of a safety hazard “a mesh playpen with collapsible sides” (p. 30)*. So, what are they referring to here? Does this include ALL pack-n-plays or play yards?

play yard_bing_share and useCaring For Our Children states all cribs should meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. For non-full size cirbs/ play yards this standard is F406-10b. Collapsible cribs are only a safety hazard if the sides no long lock securely, if the model does not meet ASTM standards, or if the crib is no longer in good condition (holes in the mesh sides, missing parts, etc.). It is also important to note, these cribs/ play yards should only be used for their intended purpose and with the original fitted mattress.

In 2013, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ruled for more strict and thorough testing of play yards. Play yards made after February 28, 2013 are held to a much stronger standard. A safety approved crib/ play yard is one that has been certified by ASTM, CPSC, and/or Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If looking for a crib, JPMA is a common certification you will see. JPMA is based on ASTM standards but also includes federal and state requirements as well as requirements from retailers; thus adhering to the highest level of product testing. It is important for providers to keep the manufacturers information (make, model, and certifications) for each crib in their early childhood program.

Check out these great one page CPSC handouts describing the updated requirements of play yards and crib safety as well as Safe Sleep for Babies.

 

*Harms, T., Cryer, D. & Clifford, R. (2007). Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale, Revised Edition. New York, NY: Teacher’s College Press.

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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Iowa ITERS in Photos Contest

camera_bing image_share and useIowa State University Extension and Outreach Human Sciences is hosting a photo contest for infant/ toddler classrooms!!  Between now and March 30 photos are being accepted that reflect best practices on the Infant/ Toddler Environment Rating Scale- Revised (ITERS-R).  Judging will take place the week of April 11th and winners will be notified by April 30th!

For more details, check out the Photo Contest Flier! Please share the flier with programs you think reflect high quality practices on the ITERS-R.

 

 

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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Group Times

Group times can be a great way for providers to share some content on certain topics, complete daily tasks and even share a bit about their plans for the day. Too often, we find providers spend more time saying things like “sit down,” “crisscross applesauce,” or “listening ears,” than they spend conveying information or interacting in a positive way with the children. Usually this occurs in large group times-times when all the children, or a large group of the children enrolled are required to sit down for a “group time” or participate in a group activity, like an art project. The following tips may help providers determine when and if they want to utilize group times and ways to ensure success:

Is group time necessary? The ITERS-R evaluates group time in Item 31, Group play activities, and can be scored NA if no group play times occur. Group times are defined as being staff-initiated and have an expectation of child participation. If the children in the group are not ready for group times, it is perfectly acceptable to not conduct group. The FCCERS-R also allows for an “NA” if children are never required to do the same activity as a whole group during play or learning. Because of the multi-age setting of family child care homes, group time can be especially difficult.

What are children gaining from group time? Many teachers and providers seem to feel that group time may be their only chance to “educate” children, and they conduct long groups covering a variety of topics. We know that children learn best through play and interaction. When they are required to sit for long periods of time, participating in an activity that they are not interested in, they are losing out on valuable time they could be learning in a meaningful way. I’ve seen providers who still conduct a calendar/weather time each day with children, but it is a voluntary time- only those children interested participate. Instead of introducing a “letter of the week” in large group, would time be better spent introducing it to a small group of children while encouraging them to come up with words that start with that letter?

Are children capable of learning in a group time? It is important to consider each child’s physical ability to participate in group. We know that young children need to be active and are often impulsive. Are they physically capable of sitting in group, or is their body telling them they need to move? Instead of reprimanding them for doing what their body is telling them, (“sit still”) would it be better to allow them to join in another activity? Is there another way that they can gain the same information that is more appropriate for them?

What’s the right size? Consider the ages and stages of the children. Some may be able to learn and participate in a large group setting, and some may not. The pressures and distractions of a large group can bother some children. Keeping group size small, especially for younger children, helps children focus and enjoy participation. The ITERS-R states that group sizes should range from 2-3 infants, 2-5 toddlers, and 4-6 two year olds.

What are the providers achieving? If providers are feeling like group time is a constant fight, it is time to re-evaluate. If group time is a daily struggle, it’s as hard on the teachers as it is the children. When a provider is constantly reminding children to sit down, listen, stop talking, etc., they likely don’t feel very successful. What are some ways providers can determine if their group times are helpful to the children? Are there any tips or techniques you feel work well when it comes to group time?

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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What if Nap Time is Not Observed?

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “How is nap scored if the assessor does not observe it?” Because we typically observe from 8:30-11:30, we often must find alternative ways to assess nap practices.

Sometimes an assessor will be able to observe some of the indicators of nap/rest even if it is not nap time. For example, assessors may be able to see how cots/ mats and bedding are stored for or are able to observe cot placement if they are arranged before lunch. In these cases, the observer will take note of this information and score accordingly.  The cribs are typically already arranged in an infant room, thus the distance between each crib can be measured.

In instances when nap cannot be observed, the assessor will need to use the interview time to obtain information about the program’s nap practices. Some of the questions an assessor may ask include the following:

  • Can you describe how nap is handled?
  • How are the cots arranged for nap time?
  • How is supervision handled at this time?
  • How often is bedding washed?
  • What do you do if a children are tired before naptime, have trouble settling down, or wake up early?

In some instances, it may be possible to see the cot arrangement at the end of the interview. Other times the assessor may ask the teacher to show or describe the placement of cots.

 

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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Winter Reminders: Playground Safety

With the current snow and freezing temperatures it is important to remind providers about conditions in the winter that have the potential for causing serious injuries on the playground.

  1. Many providers in Iowa use loose-filled surfacing under and around playground equipment to provide cushioning in the event of a fall. The U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook reminds us that freezing temperatures result in the protective surfacing in and around playground equipment to also freeze. Even if the first few layers are loose, the base layer may be frozen and will not provide adequate impact absorption if a child falls from the equipment. If these conditions exist, the CPSC recommends that children not use equipment requiring fall zone protection.
  2. Those howling winter winds can also cause loose-filled like mulch or wood chips to be blown around which can result in inadequate protection.   Just as in the summer months, it is important to remind providers to rake the material and check the surface to make sure there is adequate protection.
  3. Ice can make a play structure including the stairs, slides and platforms to be slippery increasing the risk of falls. In the event of these conditions, ice should be removed from the equipment prior to children being allowed to use it. Snow and ice can also build up on trip limbs creating potential hazards if children play under trees. Regular pruning is recommended.
  4. Snow on a playground is fun for play, but can also conceal hidden hazards such as, glass or other unsafe items that can harm children. Even if the snow surface looks pristine, it is important to remind providers to still do those routine maintenance checks to make sure the playground surface is hazard-free.

snow playgroundWith all these hazards and the time it takes to get children dressed properly for outdoor play, why is it important for children to play outside in the winter (weather permitting)? Because research shows that children that play outside are actually healthier and besides its fun!

What winter tips do you have for providers?

What activities do you suggest to providers when climbing equipment is not safe to use?

 

 

Kris Signature

 

 

 

 

 

References:

U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, April, 2008. Handbook for Public Playground Safety, page 18, http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/122149/325.pdf

Playground Magazine, Volume 9 – No. 5 winter, 2009-2010, “The Chill Effect: Winter Tips for Playground Surfaces” www.playgroundmag.org

Child Care Weather Watch Chart www.isbe.net/pdf/school_health/wind-heat-chart.pdf

 

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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Supervision of Toileting: Allow Privacy or Keep Children within Sight?

Frequently we observe teachers and providers who want to close the door to the bathroom while a child is using the toilet to ensure privacy. This can be a problem with young children because the provider cannot see the child to protect their safety. Bathrooms have several areas that can be at risk to children.

child care bathroom

  • Drowning. Children can drown in less than a couple inches of water and in a matter of seconds. Bathrooms have toilets and sinks that hold water.
  • Chemicals and Medicines. Bathrooms are often a storage place for cleaning chemicals, medications and ointments. Soaps can even be hazardous if swallowed; which is why they should be used under adult supervision. All other items labeled “keep out of reach of children” should be locked away.
  • Burns and Shocks. Accessible outlets without safety covers. Especially in homes, you might find curling irons, straighteners or other hot appliances left out.
  • Falls. We know children love to climb and bathroom toilets, step stools and countertops are all inviting surfaces for children to use as climbing structures. Climbing on any of these surfaces can quickly lead to falls. Bathroom floors easily become wet and slippery. It is important to be sure wet floors are wiped up promptly.

A lack of supervision can also lead to poor hygiene practices and uncleanliness. It is important to ensure children are using the toileting facilities properly and carrying out toileting procedures correctly, for example flushing toilets, wiping correctly, and washing hands. Providers need to ensure sanitary conditions are maintained by supplying enough toilet paper and paper towels for children, making sure no urine is left on toilet seats or floors, and paper towels thrown away.

With any area of child care, adequate supervision protects children from physical and emotional harm. When children are within sight and hearing, teachers are able to quickly stop teasing, bullying, and inappropriate behaviors.

The youngest children (toddlers and young preschoolers) will often need more assistance and closer supervision. Developmentally, toddlers and preschoolers are not ready to be left in the bathroom alone as they are more impulsive and do not have good judgment to avoid risks. Providers should be stationed by the bathroom door to provide guidance to younger children.

The amount of supervision provided to older preschool children (around 5 years of age to Kindergarten) will depend on the child. Some 5 year olds need more guidance than others. Once a child has shown the ability to properly use the bathroom facilities and understand the rules, they can be provided more privacy. However, these children still need to be checked on frequently and be within close hearing range. If toileting areas are not within the classroom, a teacher should accompany children to the restroom.

School-age children may be ready to use the bathroom alone. Again, this will depend on the abilities of the child and ensuring they understand the rules. Teachers should still stay near the bathroom and check on them frequently to ensure inappropriate behaviors do not occur. Teachers can make it clear privacy is respected, but if there is an issue the teacher will enter the bathroom area. It is important to make sure children do not lock the bathroom doors, in case there is an emergency.

For infants, toddlers, and preschoolers direct supervision by sight and hearing should be used at all times, whether it’s during outdoor gross motor, nap, meals, indoor play, or toileting. For school-age children, teachers/ providers should keep them within sight or hearing at all times.

Resources:

All About ECERS-R, p. 116-120

Caring For Our Children, Standard 2.2.0.1: Methods of Supervision of Children

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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FCCERS-R and Fire Inspections

“How do I get a fire inspection?”  “Who can I talk to about getting a fire inspection for my home?”  These are common questions we hear from family child care home providers.  FCCERS-R item 12, Safety Practices, indicator 5.3 can raise anxiety with providers, and, unfortunately in Iowa there is no clear answer for them.

Licensed center-based programs in Iowa must receive annual inspections by a state fire marshal. Iowa Child Development Home Registration guidelines state the need for posting emergency plans, practicing fire and tornado drills, and providing a safety barrier around any heating stove or heating element to prevent burns. Official fire inspections in child development homes are not required and are rare, thus   indicator 5.3 in safety practices is often scored as a “no” on FCCERS-R score sheets.

fire extinguisher_bing imageEach town, county, rural district and fire department has their own policies regarding when and if fire inspections will be completed.  Barriers providers have come across when asking for a fire inspection include: inspections provided only within city limits, department is made up of volunteer fire fighters and lacks the resources, inspections are only completed in larger businesses or businesses open to the public, and cost ($150).

One provider was able to receive a fire inspection through her insurance company. This is great, but we want to ensure all child development home inspections across Iowa are similar. Since there isn’t an official form for child development home fire inspections in Iowa, see North Carolina’s Child Care Fire Inspection report form as a guide. We would want to see similar criteria met in a fire inspection for Iowa child development homes.

Because a fire inspection would be an easy “yes” on the score sheet, many providers tend to focus heavily on it.  However, it’s more important that they focus on the “big picture.”  Some thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Many providers who receive an overall score of 5.0 or higher do not have a fire inspection, and may have received a score of 4 or below in Safety practices.
  • If a provider meets all other 5 indicators but not 5.3, (fire inspection) they would still receive a 4 in Safety Practices.
  • In order to get through the Level 5 indicators, they would need a “yes” on 3.1 (No more than 3 safety hazards) and a “yes” on 5.1 (No safety hazards).   These indicators are commonly marked “no,” even in high-scoring programs due to safety hazards such as lack of playground surfacing, a changing table without the 6” barrier, no fence surrounding outdoor areas, and choking hazards accessible to children under the age of 3 years.

State Fire Marshal’s Office http://www.dps.state.ia.us/fm/

Jamie Signature

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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Transporting Children and Effects on “Much of the Day”

REMINDER: Please do not share the following blog post or URL. This is a private blog with the intentions for you to share experiences and to receive further clarification and information related to the Environment Rating Scales.

Most providers love to help out the families they serve. Many will volunteer to transport a family’s child to and from preschool as part of their caregiving duties. Parents love this! The parent doesn’t have to leave work or find other means of transportation. It’s a win-win, right?

ChildSeatWait… how do the other children feel? The children who have to ride along while the preschool child is transported to and from preschool. The children who have to ride in the van 10, 15, 20 minutes each way, plus wait in the parking lot for the teacher to escort the preschooler to the van. The child who had to stop building that amazing block tower for her ponies, not for a snack or to go outside and play, but to ride in the van. This much time spent transporting children can severely effect “much of the day” on the FCCERS-R.

Remember “much of the day” means any time children are awake and able to play, the specified materials should be accessible. There should be no long periods where children are not actively engaged in activities and no more than 20 minutes total of time during a 3-hour observation. What are the children doing while transporting and are they ALL actively engaged the entire time? Is the provider able to safely transport children while keeping them actively engaged?

Have you had any discussions with the providers you work with about transporting children?

For more information on “much of the day”, see page10 of your FCCERS-R book and the additional notes. (http://www.ersi.info/fccers_notes.html)

Melissa Signature II

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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