Field News from The Playing Field

October 2023

Dear Friends of The Playing Field,

We recently celebrated our eighth anniversary! Founded in September of 2015, The Playing Field set out to reduce disparities in early care and education. We have created a unique model which intentionally integrates children from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. We have addressed many barriers that often prevent low income families from accessing high quality early care and education.

Anniversaries always provide an opportunity for reflection and as I look back at the last eight years, I am overcome with gratitude. Our dedicated teachers show up every day for children! I am always touched when I visit classrooms and see the beautiful interactions between children and their teachers. I am thankful for our staff and their willingness to continually grow and learn as professionals.

Our amazing supporters make this work possible! I know there are many wonderful causes and I am grateful to each person and organization who makes the work of The Playing Field a priority!

I was recently hosting a tour for someone who had visited us in our very beginning stages. She was commenting on how far we had come as an organization and asked, ā€œHow did you do all this?ā€ I gave her the same answer I always giveā€” ā€œWe have really good people!ā€ Our wonderful staff and supporters deserve all the credit!

Thank you to each of you who takes an interest in our work. The investment of your time, talent, attention, and resources matter!


Abbi Kruse

Apprenticeship Program

Reliable child care allows parents to work and provide for their families. Without child care, they may miss out on career and educational pursuits. It is estimated that over 2000 Madison children currently need child care. In Dane County, that number rises to over 6000.

The Playing Field is expanding in an effort to meet the huge needs of our community, adding three new classrooms this school year and an additional eight classrooms next school year.

More classrooms means our need for qualified staff is increasing too. For this reason, our leadership looked for new ways to recruit and retain classroom staff. Executive Director, Abbi Kruse explained, ā€œIf we staff our new classrooms with teachers from other area programs, that will not result in a net gain of enrollment spaces for the community. We needed to find a way to bring new people into the field of early care and education.ā€

In partnership with Madison College and the Department of Workforce Development, The Playing Field launched a paid apprenticeship program. Our apprentices will be working as Assistant Teachers while completing their credentials to become qualified Lead Teachers. The Playing Field received funding from the Dream Up grant to cover paid study time and onsite tutoring for our apprentices!

Governor Evers attended our recent Apprenticeship Signing Event. You can read more about his visit at the links below:

Pilot Program for Coaches

The Playing Field was founded with the goal of reducing barriers to high quality early care and education. One of those barriers is the high rate of preschool suspensions and expulsions. Over 17,000 US preschoolers are suspended or expelled annually.

Children impacted by early adversity often display big behaviors which can be difficult to address in traditional child care programs. The Playing Field implements Conscious DisciplineĀ®, a trauma-sensitive social emotional program. Our teachers participate in intensive training, mentoring and coaching. This not only allows The Playing Field to support the needs of children who have experienced early adversity but has shown a dramatic decrease in our staff turnover rates.

Our leadership has a vision to help other programs in their implementation of Conscious DisciplineĀ®. We recently piloted this idea when we hosted a group of statewide instructional coaches from Alabama. This team of coaches travel throughout their state to support Early Head Start classrooms. The Alabama coaches spent four days with us. They participated in training and then had opportunities to see Conscious DisciplineĀ® in practice. Combining training with guided observations and reflective practices provided a fertile ground for learning.

The feedback from participants was extremely positive. Team Lead and Administrator, Amy Brakenhoff wrote, ā€œThe experience was life changing for myself, my team and our practice.ā€

While the coaches from Alabama learned from us, our staff learned about how to support others in implementing reflective practices. Our leadership team looks forward to hosting more visits like this one.

Congratulations, Michelle Henner!

Please join us in congratulating Program Director, Michelle Henner. She was recently selected as a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor.

Michelle has served at The Playing Field since our opening day. She has led our efforts to support classroom staff in implementation of Conscious DisciplineĀ®. She mentors all new staff through the ten session eCourse and oversees teacher coaching at all of our locations.

Michelleā€™s role as a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor will allow her to share her knowledge beyond our organization.

We couldnā€™t be more proud!

Want to help?

We continue to raise funds for ongoing needs including scholarships for children. These scholarship funds assure that no child is ever denied access to our high quality program.

Please click the button below or email info@playingfieldmadison.orgĀ for more information.

Five Stars