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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.

 

Congratulations to Afterschool Programs Who Earned Accreditation through MAAP!

 

 

We are pleased to announce that 24 afterschool programs either earned or renewed their accreditation through the Minnesota Afterschool Accreditation Program (MAAP) in 2017.

Programs going through MAAP evaluate their programs and operating procedures in five major programmatic components – administration, wellness, activities, relationships and environment. They are able to acknowledge the great things that are already happening, but are also open to identifying areas for improvement based on researched best practices in the field, and are innovative and committed to making these changes for the benefit of the youth they serve. 

This month, a celebration was held in honor of these programs and the immense efforts their staff, families, community members, and other stakeholders have dedicated toward this accomplishment. It was a wonderful chance to network, share stories – successes, struggles and insights – and to recognize each other and the important work being done each and every day.

On behalf of the MnAEYC-MnSACA staff and board, we thank you for your commitment to quality and for providing exceptional programming for the youth and families you serve. Quality is not a one shot deal – it is a process of continuous self-study, goal setting, and implementation, and we know these programs will be an ongoing representation in their communities of what quality and best practice looks like.

Please join us in congratulating the following programs for all of their hard and dedicated work! Check out our Facebook post and leave your congratulations.

Edina Kids Club
     Robbinsdale Adventure Club
Concord Elementary     Meadow Lake Elementary
Edina Community Center     Northport Elementary
      School of Engineering & Arts
Fridley Tiger Club
    Zachary Lane Elementary
Hayes Elementary  
Stevenson Elementary     Roseville Friendship Connection
      Edgerton Elementary
Minneapolis Kids     Falcon Heights Elementary    
Dowling Elementary     Little Canada Elementary
Kenny Elementary     
Lyndale Elementary     Watertown-Mayer Kids' Company
Pratt Elementary     Watertown-Mayer Primary School
Whittier Elementary    
       Wayzata Home Base
Minnetonka Explorers Club     Gleason Lake Elementary
Clear Springs Elementary     Greenwood Elementary
Deephaven Elementary     
     
Osseo Kidstop    
Weaver Lake Elementary     
Woodland Elementary  
Zanewood Elementary  

Visit a list of all programs currently accredited by MAAP here.


Scenic Heights Explorers Club

By Amanda Mason, MnAEYC-MnSACA NEWSLETTER WRITER

Scenic Heights Explorers ClubScenic 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!”


Watertown-Mayer Kids’ Company

By Amanda Mason, MnAEYC-MnSACA NEWSLETTER WRITER

Just west of Minneapolis lies the Watertown-Mayer School District, home of the Watertown-Mayer Kids’ Company program. They provide care for preschool-aged children through 6th grade. They have been in operation for 15 years, and currently enroll 140 children in their program.

We sat down with Nicole Elvidge, the Director at Learn and Grow, and the program’s coordinator to discuss their experience going through accreditation.

The Kids’ Company school-age program operates before-and-after school hours, and also provides summer programming. During the school year they bus children from the primary school to their individual schools in the morning, then pick them up again in the afternoon. This allows for a consistent drop-off and pick-up site for parents, and allows for continuity of programming as the children all gather at the same site. Their preschool program takes in children ages 3 and up for full-day programming all year round.

Watertown-Mayer Kids’ Company Preschool earned accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in 2014. At the same time, the school-age program decided to pursue MAAP accreditation as well. They are now just beginning the process of re-accreditation, as their current status will expire next summer.

Program Coordinator, Amy Dimmler, said of the initial accreditation process, “It became very evident as a result of the accreditation process that staff were more intentional about what and how they implemented programming to support developmental domains.” She believes in the positive impact of the accreditation process, and feels that “it strengthened program unity.”

According to Amy, over the past few years since earning accreditation, Watertown-Mayer Kids’ Company has worked very hard to maintain their accreditation. “By reviewing criteria each year and evaluating practices, we are able to maintain our accreditation criteria.”

Amy recommends accreditation to any program that is striving for high-quality programming. For anyone considering accreditation for the first time, Amy recommends to “set aside time to focus on reviewing criteria with staff to ensure they understand, and to have a plan for implementing program improvements in a timely manner.”

Are you interested in pursuing MAAP at your program? Visit our website to learn more about the benefits of accreditation and how you can enroll today for the 2016-2017 school year.


Roosevelt Kids World

By Amanda Mason, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer

Roosevelt Kids WorldThe Kids World school-age program at Roosevelt Elementary School exists within the Faribault Public School system, located just south of the Twin Cities. About 68%-72% of students attending a Faribault elementary school are on the free and reduced lunch program, with a rapidly growing refugee population. Many of the families that attend the Kids World out-of-school time program fall within the state poverty guidelines, but are unable to receive child care assistance due to long wait lists. As such, Kids World tries to keep their fees very minimal so families can afford the program costs.

The mission at Kids World is to provide quality, year-round services for school-age students when they are not involved in regular school day programming, which is a huge service for parents. They provide services beginning as early as 6:30 a.m., and end their day at 6:00 p.m. Typically they serve between 50 and 60 students on an average day.

While at Kids World, children are encouraged to pursue their interests, build friendships, develop leadership skills, practice independence, and gain confidence. The staff support the children by providing positive experiences, individual choice, a healthy and safe environment, and by having appropriate behavioral expectations.

When asked about the accreditation process, Program Coordinator, Amanda Kappes, said the road to accreditation was a long one – nearly three years in the making! As Amanda explained, “It was a long process – with it being started before my hire.” Roosevelt Kids World received accreditation subsidies and coaching support through MnSACA’s Accreditation Facilitation Project. Once they settled into the accreditation process, they developed a great relationship with their MAAP coach and truly benefited from the feedback that was offered.

One of the biggest challenges they faced during the process was staff turnover. “We are a feeder program for staff that want to work within the district,” said Amanda, when expanding upon the turnover factor. They also struggled with gathering individuals for their parent advisory board.

Roosevelt Kids WorldDespite the challenges, Amanda would absolutely recommend the process to others. Since becoming accredited, they have added AmeriCorps to their program for homework help, they have been able to plan more activities for the children, and according to Amanda, being able to talk about their accreditation has helped with marketing their program. “Publicity from the MAAP accreditation has brought new families to the program.” Not only do they have new families in their program, but Amanda explained that the accreditation has “allowed for an increase in CCAP reimbursement money to help cover the cost for those families.”

One of the greatest benefits of the accreditation process for Kids World was the direction it gave the program. Amanda elaborated: “When I started almost three years ago, there was not much organization within the program. The accreditation process gave our program direction, and helped to establish best practices for after-school care. Accreditation helped to set the standard for the program staff and what was expected according to what needed to improve to meet standards.”

To find out more about Faribault Public Schools or Kids World, visit http://www.faribault.k12.mn.us/community_ed/kids_world.

Photo credit: Roosevelt Kids World


Sonnesyn Adventure Club

by AJ Dombeck, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer & Board Member

Sonnesyn Adventure ClubSonnesyn Adventure Club has been providing exciting, challenging experiences for children in the Robbinsdale area since 1975. The program serves a population that is challenged by poverty, mental and physical health issues, and language barriers. Recently the Adventure Club staff took on a challenge of their own. This past summer, they sought out and recently received MAAP accreditation.

The Sonnesyn Adventure Club supervisor, Melissa Laatsch, said the program teaches “life-long learning skills to all children and youth during out-of-school time.” Melissa said the program wanted to become accredited “so the public knows that Sonnesyn Adventure Club values best practice in before and after school programming.” Melissa said the process was valuable for the whole team. “It was beneficial to have the MAAP standards tool out at meetings so we could discuss as a team what we needed to add, change, or keep the same.”

The accreditation process held benefits that went far beyond the staff. Melissa said, “The families and students have a voice, and we implemented different ways for them to be heard and ask what they want to see in our program.” The kids also get to feel a sense of ownership for the Adventure Club. “The children love that they lead activities and have a say in how we run the program! That was the biggest positive change,” she added.

Sonnesyn Adventure ClubThe staff at Sonnesyn Adventure Club spoke highly of the accreditation process. One staff member said, “The process was educational, as well as easy to follow. We could look at the MAAP tool and say, ‘Yes, we do that well,’ or ‘We need to add this to meet that standard.’” The staff said that the effort that they put into the accreditation process paid off. “It benefited the kids and by the end you could see the kids were happier.” The advice the Adventure Club staff would give to other programs seeking accreditation is to “just follow the tool and add what you need to add.” They recommended working together and giving out different sections for each staff member to work on. “Focus on the relationships and programming and don’t get overwhelmed by the paperwork piece.”

All of this work seems to be paying off in the kids’ eyes. They had a lot of positive things to say about Sonnesyn Adventure Club. One student said, “I like coming to Sonnesyn Adventure Club because the staff are nice to me and I love the art projects.” Another student mentioned enjoying a new element the program added during the accreditation process. “I like the classes where I can be the teacher.” It can be a life-changing experience for children to have the opportunity to share their knowledge at such a young age.

The staff members at Sonnesyn Adventure Club are working to help children acquire skills now that will benefit them for years to come. If you run into any of the Adventure Club’s staff, congratulate them on their recent accreditation and on the great work they have been doing for 40 years.

Photo credit: Sonnesyn Adventure Club


Minneapolis Kids—Ramsey Middle School

By Hilary Disch, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer

RamseyWhen I visited the Minneapolis Kids program on a typical Minnesota winter day, the students were busy reading, drawing, playing in the snow, having a snack, and preparing for a cooking project.

The Minneapolis Kids program at Ramsey Middle School in Minneapolis has been open for three years. As Rob Lindberg, Site Coordinator, explained, the site is an overflow option for families that attend an elementary school where the Minneapolis Kids site is full. Minneapolis Kids serves nearly 2,000 students in before- and after-school programming and approximately 75 attend Ramsey Middle School. The students at Ramsey Middle School come from five different elementary schools. Rob stated that their program is “usually second choice and can often be perceived as inconvenient.” Yet, once the families start attending their program, they usually never want to leave. Rob said that having students come from different schools has really helped the program become more diverse and it allows for students to have friends other than the kids at their school or in their neighborhood. The families view it as a “melting pot” that allow their children to be a part of not only their school, but also their community. 

One way that Rob and his team have built a sense of community at Minneapolis Kids is through service learning projects. Rob and team member Jodi Hayes made plans to visit a local nursing home. During the visit, the students will play instruments with the elderly. This will be a new experience for the program and Rob is excited to see how it goes. 

Ramsey 2Ramsey Middle School—Minneapolis Kids was accredited for the first time last May. Although the Minneapolis Kids program has been accredited for many years, Rob talked about how they learn something new each time they go through the MAAP process. One of the focused areas for last year was the tracking system. Jodi explained that she thought the tracking system was beneficial because it was one that the students “enjoyed using and took responsibility for.” The tracking system allows for the staff members to keep the students safe while still allowing them to enjoy and interact with the students. It also helps the program to create a fun, safe, and caring environment. 

Accreditation is important to the Ramsey Minneapolis Kids program because it strives to offer high quality care to children and for families. Rob explained that the accreditation process was beneficial because the program “became more obligated to provide a better variety of activities and experiences that touched upon various curriculum areas.” Jodi added that going through accreditation was beneficial because it helped to “get all staff on the same page and staff was clear on what is needed to have a successful program.”

Mina is in 3rd grade and attends Hale Elementary School and participates at Ramsey. She said that she likes the program because she gets to hang out with friends. Mina usually chooses to go outside, but she also likes the projects. Cooking projects are her favorite. The program had been studying the Native American culture and they were offering a cooking project to go along with this theme, which she was excited about.

The Ramsey Middle School—Minneapolis Kids program was warm and welcoming. The students had many choices and it was apparent that they enjoyed spending their time at the program.  When asked what program’s biggest strength was, Jodi said without hesitation, “Our Coordinator, Rob. He is organized, has great programming, and is supportive of us as a team.”  She explained that because he is such a great leader for the rest of the staff, it gives them the ability to run a high quality program. The whole team is prepared and dedicated to providing the students with the best program possible. 

Photo credit: Minneapolis Kids—Ramsey Middle School


Minneapolis Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program

By Helen Meissner, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer

Minneapolis Public SchoolsThe Minneapolis Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPPP) exists to help student parents stay in school and be successful, and to provide children with a high quality child care program with a focus on meeting the individual developmental needs of each child. 

The TAPPP program sites have been licensed since the 1970s. Initially they were known as MICE (Mothers, Infants, Child Education). TAPPP has four sites and serves 147 children. One of the services offered at the child care sites is Teen Parent Services (TPS). In addition to child care, TPS offers parents prenatal and parenting education, case management (support services), and transportation. They are currently serving parents that attend seven different high schools.

TAPPP recently became accredited using the supports of the Accreditation Facilitation Project (AFP), and Kristen Wheeler-Highland, Program Director, said they decided to become accredited to show evidence of national recognition. Kristen explained that they had a four star rating with Parent Aware and meet all criteria to be considered quality care in the state of Minnesota. Kristen said, “With four separate sites one of our goals was to use this process to increase cohesiveness across our sites.”

“We saw this process as a way to continue conversations among staff within sites and across sites about quality standards and a variety of ways of demonstrating those standards.” She added, “The process created lots of conversation (some of it heated) about what quality looks like, how we can demonstrate it and how we could keep what we saw as important, individually and as a program. We did not want our sites to become cookie cutter, we wanted them to be ‘speaking the same language’ when it came to quality practices.”

There were challenges during the process. She said, “Our staff are contracted and belong to a union, so we were bound by some strict guidelines about time. It was also difficult to get staff to buy-in at multiple levels. Helping staff to see all the possibilities was challenging, when frustrated people wanted a quick, black and white answer.”

They were fortunate enough to have a staff person who was tasked with leading the accreditation effort. She created tools to help and support the staff. The Accreditation Facilitation Project Specialists were instrumental in helping the program achieve accreditation. They helped at all levels programmatically, in the classroom and with staff.

When asked how the accreditation benefited TAPPP, Kristen was quick to answer that the staff developed a common language for speaking about quality and now have a shared understanding. The children, being at such high risk, benefit daily from the quality of the program. Also, because the parents are so young and have not yet had any other child care experiences, Kristen believes that the biggest impact will come when they step out into the "real world" and have to choose another program for their child. They now have a model of quality to compare other programs to.

When asked if she would encourage other programs to pursue accreditation Kristen said, “Yes, even if you have to slow down, delay or step back from the final pieces of the process, this is a very illuminating process for everyone in the program. It helped us achieved a much higher level of cohesiveness that we were looking for. Within the school district this has given us a higher profile and more visibility.”


SEA Adventure Club

By AJ Dombeck, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer


Photo courtesy of the SEA Adventure Club

SEA Adventure Club is a before and afterschool program operated at the School of Engineering and Arts in the Robbinsdale school district. The program provides unique learning experiences to help students develop important skills. Melissa Hanson, the Site Supervisor, said, "We teach life-long learning skills to all children and youth during out-of-school time."

The program, serving approximately 80 students, is just beginning its third year. "School of Engineering and Arts Adventure Club is committed to providing safe, fun and enriching experiences in a respectful and nurturing environment," says Melissa.

The program has recently become accredited by the Minnesota Afterschool Accreditation Program (MAAP). The staff said the MAAP accreditation process helped them learn the value of continuous improvement. "I have always felt that we provided a quality program," Melissa said. "Now that we have become accredited, as a staff we are having daily conversations about what we can do or do differently to benefit our children and families in order for them to receive the highest quality of care."

Though, the MAAP process seemed intimidating at first, Melissa spoke highly of the support the program received. "The process seemed a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but with the help of our coach and attending monthly cohort meetings, we felt confident moving forward." The encouragement and guidance helped the program stay on track through the entire process.

SEA Adventure Club staff spoke highly of the MAAP process. They encouraged others to seek accreditation as well, saying, "We feel that this process has brought the staff, children, families and school together."


Bluff Creek Elementary Club Care

By Hilary Disch, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer

Bluff Creek
Photo credit: http://www.district112.org

Bluff Creek Elementary Club Care in Chanhassen is a before- and afterschool and summer program that is accredited through the Minnesota Afterschool Accreditation Program, otherwise known as MAAP. The Bluff Creek program will seek re-accreditation this upcoming school year. I had the opportunity to visit Bluff Creek and talk about the program and their accreditation experience with their Site Lead, Lisa Pinke.

The program serves roughly 100 students and is offered year round. Club Care has been open for 20 years and runs out of all schools in the district. All children are welcome at Club Care.

Lisa feels as though the MAAP process has benefited this program in many ways. She explained, "The process helped the staff to have a better understanding of what and why we do what we do. The families have been able to see what their children are doing while they are at Club Care. And most of all, the students are given an opportunity to participate in some planning and feel like they are part of something.”

Last year at Bluff Creek, the 5th grade students from Club Care made a yearbook. The yearbook contained pictures from the school year and the students ensured that each student that wanted to participate had a picture in the yearbook. This was a student-led activity that the students were extremely proud of.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Jenna Goeteze, who is a Lead Staff at Club Care. She said, "Being accredited has brought organization to our program and it has helped to get all staff on the same page as far as expectations go.” Jenna and the team feel that by following the MAAP accreditation guidelines, there are more activities for the students to do and the children are happier because they have more freedom.

Pinke said that they continue to utilize the tools that they have learned through the accreditation process. "Each day brings a new experience that we learn from,” she said. They like that they have a tool that holds them accountable for what they do with the children and how the program runs.

The accreditation process has also helped to bring the staff closer together as a team. Pinke talked about how, "…the process brings you closer and clarifies things that you may already be doing, or it leads you in the direction where your program could grow. It also gives you a different perspective on what is a quality program that is willing to take on the responsibility of learning and growing, even if you don’t think you need to.”

The team at Club Care encourages others to go through the accreditation process and reminds staff "to be patient, it takes time and effort to get and be accredited. All the changes are well worth it in the end.”


Minneapolis Kids at Field Middle School

By Kim St. Marie, Program Director, MnAEYC-MnSACA

It was a cold, blustery Monday afternoon when I visited Minneapolis Kids at Field Middle School in southeast Minneapolis, with snow banks higher than I’ve seen in years. Despite the giant mounds of snow and frigid temperature outdoors, the joyful sight and sound of approximately 20 fifth and sixth grade students scattered about, actively engaged in various activities of their choosing, warmed me as I entered the Minneapolis Kids space.

The expansive space utilized by the program is referred to as the "commons” and serves as a cafeteria, orchestra hall, and auditorium during the school day. However, before and after school, it is purposefully transformed into areas that inspire Minneapolis Kids participants to relax in comfortable chairs and catch up with their peers, enjoy a game of Twister, create woven bracelets, complete their homework or engage in a host of other activities that appeal to this age group. The program schedule also includes regular trips to the computer lab and ample opportunities to participate in active physical play outside or in the gym.

Serving students in fifth through eighth grade, Field is a sister school of Hale Elementary, which serves Kindergarteners through fourth graders. Minneapolis Kids at Field Middle School opened six years ago in response to over population at the Hale Elementary site. Since then, it’s grown about three times in size and caters to "older kid programming.”

Minneapolis Kids at Field have approximately 50 fifth and sixth graders enrolled with an average of 35 attending each day. Minneapolis Kids currently operates out of 20 of Minneapolis’ school sites of which nine have achieved accreditation through the Minnesota Afterschool Accreditation Program (MAAP). The Field site achieved accreditation in May of 2012.

As I ventured down the hallway to check out what was happening in the gym, I was greeted by the Site Coordinator, Karalyn Swanson, and a high-energy game of floor hockey. As the red and yellow team battled it out in a self-regulated and surprisingly safe manner, I learned that floor hockey was one of the activities planned around the month-long club "Nostalgic Movies.” As I struggled to correlate floor hockey with nostalgic movies, Swanson further shared that The Mighty Ducks would be showing in the media center following the hockey game. Mystery solved!

The Nostalgic Movies club was offered on Mondays throughout February, with other clubs taking place the remaining days of the week. On Tuesday through Friday throughout February program participants were able to participate in four other clubs; Hearts, Modern Art, So You Think You Can Dance, and Cold Weather Science. Program participants are encouraged to write their monthly club ideas on post-it notes and stick them on the Club Ideas Board. From there the ideas are brought to life by program staff who create a months’ worth of enriching activities relating to the club’s theme.

Swanson describes the space as the biggest challenge of operating at this site. Being a portable program in a school with a strong emphasis on music, she says they are often displaced due to concerts or other gatherings in the "commons.” However, Swanson and her staff have established a strong rapport with school personnel who let them know in advance when the space is needed for other purposes and a commitment exists in accommodating and working around the needs of the Minneapolis Kids.

When asked about the key to keeping fifth and sixth graders interested and engaged, Swanson says "Involving them in planning and allowing them freedom to choose what they want to do is very important.” She further shared with me that this age group is surprisingly capable of self-regulating and keeping each other in check, so staff seldom need to address behavior issues.

Although Swanson had experienced accreditation as an assistant at other sites, she reflects on her experience as a coordinator saying, "I remember feeling nervous at the beginning, but really enjoyed the experience this time. So often I feel accreditation is regarded as a "test” that needs to be passed, but the way I interpreted it [as a coordinator] was as a continual improvement process, which was put in place to make our program better.”

MAAP is a team-driven self-study process that includes the surveying of families, staff, and youth participants as well as the observation of programming practices conducted by members of a stakeholder team. All of this feedback contributes to the development of an action plan for improvement. For Swanson and her staff the process took about nine months to complete, "By the time our endorser visit occurred, I remember feeling a sense of pride in our program and I was excited to show the endorser all [that] our amazing program had to offer.”

An integral component of the MAAP Self-Study process includes the assistance of a trained coach who has experienced accreditation first-hand and helps the program in navigating the process from start to finish. "Our coach, Breezy Barrett, offered so much helpful guidance and made the process such a positive one that it inspired me to become a coach, so that I could offer other programs the same encouragement and ease that she gave us.” Swanson is currently coaching Robbinsdale Adventure Club’s Zachary Lane site through the self-study process.

"I would encourage programs to go through the process – it’s put in place to improve one’s program, not to test it! By embracing that idea and promoting it to one’s team, it becomes a really beneficial journey,” said Swanson.


Plymouth Creek Home Base

By Helen Meissner, MnAEYC-MnSACA Newsletter Writer

Plymouth Creek Home Base is located in Wayzata. The school age program was recently re-accredited. I had a chance to do an interview with Renae Connoy, their Site Manager, who talked about their accreditation experience.

Home Base began in the fall of 1981 with 35 children and three staff members. They now serve 1,300 children from 950 families. Their staff size has increased to over 100 located at all seven elementary schools in the district. They offer year round programming. Renae tells me, "Our biggest challenge at Home Base is the same challenge many after-school programs face – we need more space.”

Home Base staff has a high regard for children and believe they deserve their best. This philosophy and cooperative efforts with family, school and community propelled them to go through re-accreditation. "It helps us let our families know we are committed to them and that we are committed to a model of excellence among our learning community.”

When asked what they thought about the accreditation process, Renae cited the work involved. They confirmed it is a lot of hard work that takes a team effort involving staff, parents and students. Success comes from everyone working together throughout the school year to complete the work and stay on top of day-to-day operations. The relationships that are strengthened between staff and stakeholder teams are one benefit of accreditation.

Home Base staff believes accreditation is a great tool to keep you on your toes with its ever-changing process. You are able to evaluate your program and keep improving the quality of care. Renae said, "Even the best sites can always find something to improve upon so going through re-accreditation really helped us sit down and look at our program from different people’s perspectives.”

Everyone develops ownership and pride during the process. The practice of re-accreditation allows everyone’s opinions and ideas to be taken into consideration. Re-evaluating includes children, parents, and staff. Even though Home Base has been accredited for many years they feel it is an important part of their commitment to quality.

Student ideas and feelings were included through the use of surveys. From these surveys the staff made changes to the program in the area of crafts, activities, and youth driven planning.

At Home Base, there is a "Have a Hand in Planning” bulletin board, where students can write their ideas for supplies, games, crafts, and activities that they would like to see in the program. Staff then documents how they follow through with the students’ ideas. They create their own craft or activity once a week. A day is left blank on the calendar so they can do anything they can imagine and staff provides the supplies.

Renae shared more about their student mentor programs, "Our kids really like helping each other out. So they created a program where they volunteer to go help in younger kids’ rooms. They play with them, help them do projects and read them books.”

Renae encourages others to go through the accreditation process. "I would definitely encourage other programs to pursue accreditation. It is a lot of hard work but it is worth it to sit down and develop a plan of action to help your program improve and grow. It’s a huge benefit for families, students and staff to really take pride in your program as they help your program grow!”


Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion

By Sara Benzkofer, Director of Policy and Communications, MnAEYC-MnSACA

Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion, a school age child care program sponsored by the Community Education Department of Robbinsdale Area Schools, was MAAP accredited this June. I talked with Lori Bestland, Site Supervisor, and Carla Murdock, Assistant Supervisor, about their experience achieving accreditation.

Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion, one of eight Adventure Club sites in the district, serves approximately 150 children in grades Kindergarten through grade 5. Adventure Club has been in operation for 37 years.

Including the children and youth in decision making is an integral element of a high quality program. This is a major piece at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion. The children and youth make numerous decisions, including scheduling field trips, ordering program supplies, and designing and implementing community service projects, and according to Lori Bestland, one of their favorite activities is teaching child-led enrichments. The children write up a proposal, which includes a brief lesson plan and a list of supplies they will need. They are expected to prepare and present it at a weekly community meeting.

Giving back to the community is another important focus for this program. Examples include collecting money for the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief, collecting toys for Toys for Tots, and collecting art supplies for Free Art Minnesota, which provides art opportunities for underprivileged children.

The program director, Elaine Boyd, a MAAP endorser, and Community Education Director, Al Ickler, encouraged the program to pursue accreditation. Bestland said, "They both felt our program was ready. They felt that it was a quality indicator and a comprehensive tool that will ensure enrollees a quality experience, be an educational/training opportunity for staff and a good marketing tool for our school district.”

The support of the administration, staff, parents and children are essential for achieving accreditation and operating a high quality program. Bestland said, "We had a very committed stakeholder team, which included two building staff, a custodian, two parents, two children and the principal. We have always felt supported in our school, but during the observation process, the building staff was surprised with the level of quality, professionalism and decision making by the children in the program.”

The benefit of accreditation for the staff is also notable. Bestland commented that the process "brought an already committed and highly qualified staff team even closer.” The process "validated the things we were already doing well and prompted great staff and stakeholder discussions about what we felt should change.”

Carla Murdock, Assistant Supervisor, said, "It gave us a clearer perspective about the whole program. It led us to a better way on how to run it. It helped us to be more sensible about the staff /children ratio. The scheduling of staff and duties became more consistent.” Furthermore, Murdock spoke about the need to have everyone on board for accreditation to be successful. She said, "At first there were lots of questions and whys from staff and parents, but as it progresses it becomes more palatable and appealing to everybody. Constant communication is one of the keys — and having a positive attitude.”

Bestland also noticed a positive impact on the staff. She said, "I felt the discussion brought about by the observation tools caused staff to reflect on the impact they have on children. The parent and child survey results provided affirmation for their efforts, and the staff surveys offered them an opportunity for input. It was great to see them be creative in finding solutions/options that parallel the mission of our program, will be successful in our allocated space, and be in the best interest of the children and families we serve.”

The children are seeing benefits too. As a result of accreditation, a few of the additions included incorporating a morning quiet area for reading and homework. They also added a Teacher Help sign up chart where children in grades 3-5 can sign up to help.

When asked if other programs should pursue accreditation, Bestland said, "I would strongly encourage other programs to consider the accreditation process. In fact, three more sites from our program will be going through it this year. It unifies the program and gets everyone ‘on the same page’ in providing quality care for the children we serve.”


Kids & Company

By Sara Benzkofer, Director of Policy and Communications, MnAEYC-MnSACA

Kids & CompanyWhen I visited Hopkins Kids & Company on a weekday afternoon, the school was bustling with activity. Children were playing lacrosse, making bookmarks, learning about Chinese art, playing outside on the sunny playground, swimming, doing homework and much more. Lead Supervisor Dlisa Campbell and her staff make it all work, seemingly effortlessly, so all the children are receiving meaningful learning opportunities that promote positive lifelong skills.

Kids & Company, in operation for 35 years, serves a population of students with many challenges, including 72% on free and reduced lunch, lack of transportation, numerous spoken languages, and homelessness. They’ve needed to think creatively about how they offer services and programming.

Lisa Walker, Youth Program Coordinator and participant in creating the MAAP pilot, said, "I feel the tool [MAAP] can be used to provide all inclusive types of out-of-school time programming. Hopkins Community Education is not operating in silos on behalf of youth and families. We are using the MAAP tools when we program for all youth.”

Kids & Company has always valued quality. Dlisa said, "We have gone through this process a number of times. We are constantly using the tool to help make our program the best it can be for our families and students we serve.”

Dlisa said one of the most beneficial outcomes from the accreditation process every year is that staff gets a better understanding of what quality really looks like. The staff and families also get a better understanding of what they really do.

One of the staff, Kari Joseph, an activity supervisor, said, " I think the accreditation process is necessary for any organization. It allows the business to proceed with the proper and the most effective way of executing and reaching their goals. We follow our requirements and push for our goals daily, but having an outside source verify or give helpful tips on certain aspects of our program that we may not be aware of is important. The process allows parents to be thankful of our influence and know that we are a top notch program.”

When asked what advice she would give other staff going through MAAP accreditation, she said, "Make sure to proceed with what you do every day. If you believe in your program it will speak for itself. Treat the observer as you would a parent and you will be fine.”

The Kids & Company program is connected to a community center, which has its benefits and challenges. One challenge is the public is free to come in and out of the building, so Dlisa talked about the need to put safety systems in place and to constantly review and update those systems to ensure the safety of the children in the program. Going through the accreditation process has helped in creating these systems and in thinking about what works and what doesn’t.

The stakeholder team is a critical component of MAAP accreditation and Dlisa said it’s no different for her program. Support from all areas of the program and school are needed for quality efforts to succeed. Dlisa said, "Always having another set of eyes looking at our program and giving us constant feedback on what they see is so helpful to staff. Our principal really understands what we do, how we can help and how vastly important we are to this building.”

It’s clear from my short visit to the program that they are indeed vastly important, as there are many children needing a quality place to be where they can learn and interact with their fellow students, and have encouraging and nurturing adults in their lives. Accreditation is essential to this quality.

As Dlisa said, "Your program will be a better program by going through the [MAAP] process. You will find things that your program has never even thought of. I would encourage others to participate in going through accreditation. It takes a very good and very thorough look at your program.”


Club Care

By Kim St. Marie, Program Director, MnAEYC-MnSACA

Club CareClub Care at Victoria Elementary School is located in beautiful Victoria, a growing, bustling community on the western edge of the Twin Cities metro area. Club Care is sponsored by the Community Education department of Eastern Carver County Schools and offers children in kindergarten through fifth grade high quality care before and after school, on school release days and during the summer. Club Care has shown a deep commitment to excellence and best practice in out-of-school time as demonstrated by the MAAP Accreditation Certificates hanging in five of their eight sites. Their remaining three sites are currently enrolled in MAAP Accreditation self-study and will be submitting applications to receive an endorsement visit within the next couple of months.

Hired as Victoria’s Site Supervisor in September of 2011, Samantha Snyder hit the ground running. She quickly embraced the concept of accreditation, and with her determined and enthusiastic attitude, managed to build a community of support around the accreditation process. These attributes contributed to how she successfully led her team through the rigorous, but rewarding process of accreditation. Snyder and her team at Victoria worked tirelessly to prepare for their visit only eight short months after she joined the staff at Victoria. Snyder would definitely encourage others to pursue accreditation, stating "it was a whirlwind…lots of work, but so worth it!” Snyder believes so deeply in the accreditation process that she decided to attend the training to become a MAAP Coach and is now coaching site supervisors from three other Club Care sites through the process.

Snyder credits accreditation as a possible reason for the 10% increase in enrollment the program has experienced since last school year. An accreditation endorsement is one of the only ways for parents to know that an out-of-school time program is committed to high quality and ongoing improvement. Many times, when moving in to a school district, parents will seek out an accredited program for their child to attend over one that is not accredited. Meeting and maintaining MAAP accreditation standards ensures that Club Care-Victoria is not only a safe environment for children and youth, but one where participants are allowed more freedom and responsibility in an environment that is choice-based, rich in educational experiences, and most importantly, fun! Program Assistant Becky Thuening shares, "I don’t remember how we functioned before. The kids are so self-sufficient [now] and feel more empowered to make decisions, which allow staff to enjoy their jobs so much more.”


White Bear Lake Extended Day

by Sara Benzkofer, MnAEYC-MnSACA Director of Policy and Communication

White Bear Extended DayI visited the White Bear Lake Area Schools Extended Day Program at Lakeaires Elementary on a blustery morning. A fresh coat of snow had just blanketed the ground. While it was cold outside, inside was warm and friendly. I was greeted by Pat Riebau, Extended Day Coordinator, and Peggie Anderson, Program Leader. After getting a tour, we hung out in the gym where many of the children were playing. A few of the girls were creating a dance routine and wanted me to take pictures of their performance. After we played with flashcards and practiced how to tell time, it was time to head outside and everyone left in a flourish.

White Bear Lake Area Schools Extended Day Program is in its 26th year providing quality care in a safe and inclusive environment. It offers before- and after-school care, half-day kindergarten care, care on non-school days and during the summer and care to 4-year-olds. Five of the nine locations have gone through accreditation and the remaining four are going through the process this year.

They chose to be accredited because they believed it would be a good self-assessment tool. They wanted to ensure they were offering a quality program, and knew it would be a good way for all of the staff to be involved in making improvements. Staff buy-in and involvement is key to being successful in accreditation, says Pat Reibeu. She added, "Accreditation heightens the professionalism of the field. The school-age care staff gain credibility in the eyes of the elementary school teachers. They see that this isn’t just care.”

The process reinforced what they were doing well and made them think about ways they could make adjustments to make the program even better. Peggie Anderson said attending the cohort meetings was a significant benefit for the staff. They were able to connect with other programs, share successes and challenges and learn from each other while going through the same process.

Quality improvements have helped with program planning, safety, and defining designated spaces. "Children are seeing more choices. Parents and school staff who participated in the stakeholder meetings are impressed with all we do and the care and planning that goes into providing for their children. Principals like to have an accredited program in their building,” said Reibeu.

There is more intention in the learning, too. One example Peggie Anderson mentioned was in the creation of cardstock turkeys. Instead of just making the turkeys, they talked with the children about symmetry. The staff is now more aware of these types of learning opportunities.

"I would encourage others to pursue accreditation. We all have areas that we can improve on. The staff became very involved and took great pride and ownership of their program. When the process is completed there is a great sense of pride at what they have accomplished as a team, but they also know that this is really the beginning of an ongoing process of making adjustments and improvements to maintain quality,” said Reibeu.


Edina KIDS Club, WISE Guys and SURGE

by Sara Benzkofer, MnAEYC-MnSACA Director of Policy and Communication

Edina KIDS Club, WISE Guys and SURGEEdina KIDS Club, WISE Guys and SURGE are all part of Edina Public Schools Community Education. Their mission is to nurture the development of children and youth by providing a quality school-age program that is fun, safe and accessible. The program serves students K-9th grade and is divided into four age groups: midday kindergarten; before and after primary for K-3rd; before and after intermediate for 4th & 5th; and after-only middle school, 6th-9th. The program has been operating since 1980.

Edina school-age care programs have been active members of MnSACA since its inception. They participated in the NSACA Accreditation Pilot, were accredited by NAA, and recently became accredited with MAAP. "We see it as a professional responsibility to our district, our kids and families and to the MnSACA organization [to be accredited],” said Jane Tierney, Program Manager – Edina WISE Guys.

While the accreditation process was challenging because of the time commitment, the Edina school-age programs found the program evaluation and improvement process very beneficial. "It’s always good to step back and take a look at what we are doing, how our process is working and what we can do better. The accreditation process allowed us to take what we were sure was a very good program and make it even better,” said Tierney.

Staff also benefitted from being able to see the program from the perspective of parents, students, and the field. The feedback they received from the stakeholder team and the parent evaluations provided much useful information. "It was eye opening for young/new staff, as well as some veterans, and really helped us tighten up parts of our programming that had become routine. It was a good all-around program tune up,” Tierney said.

This is the first program that serves youth 11-15 years old that is MAAP accredited. We asked Jane Tierney what advice she would give other programs who are considering offering care for older youth. "Working with older youth is not for the faint of heart. It takes a special commitment to be able to accommodate the developmental needs of the 11-15 year old group. They want and need a lot more freedom and they need adults willing to recognize their abilities as teenagers (or near-teens). We have been very fortunate to have staff talented with this age group, who truly enjoy this age group, and an administration who understand that this has to be done differently and are willing to allow that.”


Our Space

by Sara Benzkofer, MnAEYC-MnSACA Director of Policy and Communication

Our SpaceOur Space, a year-round licensed and accredited program that was launched in 2007 by Jim and Tosca Grimm, recently moved to a new space and is tucked away in a wooded area of Minnetonka. When I walked into Our Space, kids were playing Uno, doing their homework, and reading to one another. They looked up from their activities and Tosca introduced me. They were all very welcoming and willing to have their picture taken. Many wanted to see how the picture had turned out on my digital camera.

Our Space is a faith-based program and their mission includes partnering with families to provide innovative, quality care and education fused with faith-building ministry to impact the community. Our Space serves up to 25 children per session, ages Kindergarten through 12 years old, serving families in the Hopkins and Minnetonka area. They offer before-school, afterschool, and school release full-day programming, with a full 12-week "day camp” summer session. They strive to be flexible in their scheduling to meet families’ needs, and to holistically meet students’ daily needs, including breakfast, lunch, and snack for every student in their regular daily tuition rates.

Our Space chose to become accredited because they wanted to ensure that they were upholding the same quality standards as all best practice afterschool programs. They believe MAAP accreditation, along with the Department of Human Services (DHS) licensing, provides a holistic approach to education and care. While DHS focuses on health and safety, MAAP accreditation focuses on parent involvement, relationship building, staff training, and curriculum. For Our Space, MAAP accreditation also provides flexibility to allow for Christian elements to be weaved into the curriculum.

"MAAP accreditation complements our DHS license in assuring our parents and the community that we are effectively operating a quality school-age program, which gives our program valuable credibility. Also, the accreditation process continues

 

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 accreditationfacilitation@mnaeyc-mnsaca.org.

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