MnSACA manages the Minnesota Afterschool Accreditation Program (MAAP). Programs participating in MAAP strengthen the quality of their work and gain recognition for their excellence. Programs in MAAP take part in self-study, goal setting, program improvement, training, and networking with other programs.
Archived Success Stories
Scenic Heights Explorers Club
By Amanda Mason, MnAEYC-MnSACA NEWSLETTER WRITER
Scenic Heights Explorers Club is a before, afterschool and summer program at Minnetonka Public Schools. In operation for 37 years, Scenic Heights Explorers Club is housed at Scenic Heights Elementary School. The program offers Junior Explorers Club, which serves children as young as age 4, and Explorers Club, which serves children up through grade 5. At any point in the year, they provide services for 100 to 226 children. Scenic Heights earned MAAP Accreditation in 2015.
At Scenic Heights Explorers Club they are proud to offer flexible enrollment options so they are able to best serve the families at their site. Site Director, Ryan Lawler, ensures a variety of activity options for the children, including group projects, small group games, and individual activities and tasks. Ryan elaborated that the Minnesota Zoo, Valley Fair, parks, water parks, and the Science Museum were some of the field trips the children were able to experience this past summer. He added that, “There are many more. Field Trip Coordinator, Kari, is constantly working on finding new and innovative field trips for us.” The children are also able to experiment with a variety of art projects, such as a three-day long volcano creation, as well as cooperative kickball, cooking projects, and quite a few service learning projects. A child who attends Scenic Heights Explorers Club mentioned that they love doing art projects with the staff, and they enjoy going to the gym, reading, and playing cards with their friends while there.
When asked what he liked most about his job, Ryan said, “Not even sure where to start with this one. Children – I like seeing the growth and development of the children (a lot tend to stay within the program, so there’s an opportunity to see that throughout a span of 5-6 years). Getting involved within the community through our service learning projects. I also enjoy working within a school that is more than willing to help us and understands that we are all here for the children.” The relationships that staff members are able to build with children and their families over time is also a favorite piece for staff member, Jacque. “I also love the team of staff members we have and all of the support we get from each other,” she added.
Ryan decided to pursue MAAP accreditation “to improve the quality care of our program and to look into the interest of children.” The accreditation process felt very busy for Ryan and his staff, not just because of the extra workload required, but because it was the first year for their program manager, assistant supervisor, and Ryan himself. However, Ryan thought the process was helpful for getting everyone on the same page as they joined the team.
In thinking about how the accreditation process changed his program, Ryan explained, “It brought everyone together for a common goal. It became much more child-led. It brought more of the ‘why’ aspect into our lessons. I also feel that we give some responsibility to the children…but it’s a responsibility they can handle and they understand.” Jacque has seen programmatic changes as well. “We are organized, all of the toys have their spots, and all of the transitions are faster and smoother.”
Both Ryan and Jacque would recommend accreditation to other sites. Jacque said “The children have so much more responsibility. We also get more time to be with the children and participate in the activities.” She advises being “open to all new changes, as well as handing over some responsibility to children. You also have to ask questions if you do not understand to make the process go as smooth as possible.” Ryan feels accreditation has “helped create an environment that facilitates growth and development for children” and recommends breaking the tasks down into smaller goals. He encourages, “It can be done, and the work and effort does pay off!”
If you are interested in becoming accredited, or are currently pursuing accreditation and would like some additional information, contact the AFP hotline at 651-646-8689, Ext. 36 or toll free at 800-711-5690. Or, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.