Dear Friends of The Playing Field,
In September, our midtown site celebrated its seventh anniversary while our east side site celebrated its second. These milestones always offer opportunities for both gratitude and reflection. There are not words to describe my thanks for the people who have joined me on this journey of reimagining early care and education. Each staff person, family member, and supporter has contributed to the success of The Playing Field.
People often ask me how I came up with the idea for our program. However, the truth is the idea found me. It was about eight years ago at this time when Early Head Start approached me with a proposal to partner. Combining children from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds just made sense to me. There was no roadmap or guide but, I knew in my heart it was the right thing. The grant from Early Head Start allowed me to dream about what an early education program could look like. Since then, The Playing Field has built a model for equity in early education— breaking barriers to access such as cost, transportation, and high rates of preschool expulsion.
As I consider our journey, one theme continues to recur. It is intentionality. The grant that started us along with every contribution we have received has allowed us to be intentional in our design and practice. We know that every moment a child spends in an early childhood program becomes part of the template from which she will go on to learn, navigate relationships, and understand the world. Children deserve nothing less than adults who are intentional in their care.
This newsletter features some of our School Family members and highlights some of our intentional practices. I hope you enjoy “meeting” them!
On behalf of the families and staff of The Playing Field, please accept my thanks for your ongoing interest and support.
Play with a Purpose
Children learn through play and our name The Playing Field represents our commitment to protect the rights of children to play. Multiple research studies have demonstrated that early academics are harmful to children so, we will never be a program that promotes rigor or rote memory. Instead, we plan play that supports the growth and development of each child.
Our teachers begin their planning cycles by observing the interests of children. Lead Teacher, Julie Betthauser noticed the children in the Inspire classroom were interested in hair so, she opened a salon in her classroom. The children explored color and texture. They improved their fine motor skills, practiced gentle touch, and even learned about the mechanics of the salon tools.
The Inspire Room teachers also understand that representation matters and they are intentional in their selection of toys. For their salon unit, the teachers chose toys that represent the diversity of the children in the classroom. Julie explained, “Diversity in even the simplest of toys can have a big impact on children. Seeing toys that resemble children has a positive impact on the development of identity and self-esteem. The different representations of the styler dolls for our Salon Unit send a subtle, yet powerful message that our children are seen and valued.”
As the children conduct their work of play, teachers observe and document learning. Individual notes are taken. The data collected tracks each child’s progress and assists teachers in planning and setting new goals for individual children.
Documentation of learning is displayed just outside the Inspire classroom. This helps parents to understand their child’s daily experiences and how those experiences relate to their overall development. This process helps adult family members to appreciate the value of play and to see the purpose behind all the fun things their children experience at school.
How Sweet It Is!
Meet Shakendra Madlock— mother, board member, and entrepreneur.
Mother of four year old, TPF student, Tyrese, Shakendra serves on the board of The Playing Field. We value our parent representatives who bring their perspectives and ideas to our leadership.
In 2019, Shakendra was injured at work. The pandemic delayed her treatment and her ability to return to work so, she started her own business. Kendra’s Kreationz was born from Shakendra’s love of baking and her abilities to create unique treats.
Recently, Shakendra brought her very fun 360 Degree Camera to a Family Night. When we featured her in our newsletter, another board member Dan Cheramy took note of her business. He and his wife Kelly will soon celebrate the Sweet 16 of their business Cheramy Story Arts and Marketing. Shakendra’s sweet treats were a perfect fit for their event and they hired her!
There are many benefits to children from participating in diverse early education programs. There are also benefits for parents like Shakendra who can make social connections which they might otherwise miss. This kind of social capital is important in helping adults find and create opportunities for themselves and their families.
We are very proud of Shakendra and her adorable little guy! We are grateful to have Shakendra and Dan on our board of directors! We wish all the best for both Kendra’s Kreationz and Cheramy Story Arts and Marketing!
We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to our community and to help others learn with us!