Early Education Spotlight: Stepping Stones Childcare Learning Center, Inc

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

Serena Bowman (Left) and Christel Cartie, Co-Owners and Directors of Stepping Stones

Parents often ask sisters Serena Bowman and Christel Cartie, “Are you a preschool program?” The sisters confidently respond, “Yes.” Because Stepping Stones Childcare Learning Center, Inc is a high-quality, Four Star Parent Aware rated program where parents can be assured that their children receive the enrichment and educational opportunities they need to be school and life ready.

When Serena and Christel combined their entrepreneurial spirit with their passion for making a difference for children, the result was Stepping Stones. They noticed that many families in the area needed care for their children, and many specifically wanted a place that offered high-quality early education options. With a goal of providing a unique experience and taking high-quality care and education to the next level, they opened a child care center in 2008. That original Aitkin location no longer exists, but they now have three centers: in Brainerd, Baxter, and Pequot Lakes. Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Stepping Stones Childcare Learning Center, Inc

Policy Hour: Parent Aware Changes & Legislative Update

The final Policy Hour of the season was a double dose of early education information! We heard about changes to Parent Aware and received an end of legislative session update.

Parent Aware

June Policy Hour at Think Small

First, Michelle Lenhart and Nara Topp joined us from the Department of Human Services (DHS) to discuss changes to Parent Aware. Parent Aware is Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Participation is voluntary for child care providers, and it offers tools and resources to help:

  • Families find quality child care and early education
  • Programs improve their practices
  • Children benefit from care and education that will prepare them for school and life

Continue reading Policy Hour: Parent Aware Changes & Legislative Update

Think Small’s Publishing Division Wins Big at Midwest Book Awards

Winners of the Midwest Book Awards Gala were announced May 12, 2017, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Think Small’s publishing division, Redleaf Press, took home top honors in three categories: Education/Learning, Children’s Picture Book, and Graphic-Illustration.

“We are thrilled to have Redleaf Press recognized by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association for the high-quality resources they publish. Since 1973, Redleaf Press has been, and will continue to be, an important part of Think Small’s mission of advancing quality care and education of children in their crucial early years,” says Think Small’s CEO Barbara Yates. Continue reading Think Small’s Publishing Division Wins Big at Midwest Book Awards

Policy Hour: Federal Updates on Early Learning

Dan Solomon

Field Representative to Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Dan Solomon, joined Policy Hour in May to provide updates on federal funding and policies that affect the early learning field.

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Franken is on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, so he is very close to education issues. Uncertainty continues to be a common thread when trying to understand federal policy. Continue reading Policy Hour: Federal Updates on Early Learning

Early Education Spotlight: Little Wonders Daycare

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

Brenda Novack has been a child care professional for more than 20 years.

Licensed family child care programs often make special adaptations to meet the needs of their community. Little Wonders Daycare in Waterville, MN, is a perfect example of this. Owner Brenda Novack knows her families well, and she tailors her high-quality program to fit their schedules.

Brenda is Two Star Parent Aware rated, and she is working toward Three Stars. Before starting her family child care, she worked at a child care center. That experience gave her ideas about how she wanted her own program to look, and the Parent Aware process has helped her polish the way she runs the show.

Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Little Wonders Daycare

Celebrating the Debra S. Fish Early Childhood Library!

 Did you know Minnesota’s best resources for early childhood professionals are available FREE to you? 

The Debra S. Fish Library contains the most current and comprehensive collection of resources for early childhood professionals.

April 9 – 15 is National Library Week!  What a great opportunity to explore a  hidden gem of early learning materials right here in our state.

The Debra S. Fish Early Childhood Library, with locations in Little Canada (St. Paul) & Minneapolis, contains the most current and comprehensive collection of resources for early childhood professionals in Minnesota. As one of St. Paul Public Library’s (SPPL) branches, our resources are easily accessible to anyone in the state of Minnesota.

Continue reading Celebrating the Debra S. Fish Early Childhood Library!

Early Education Spotlight: Daryeel Group Home Daycare

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

Children practice skills they will need for Kindergarten.

You could say that Mariyan Jama is a Parent Aware all-star. She participated in the pilot of the program in 2010. She left the family child care business for a while, but when she came back in 2015 she jumped in to participate again. Her South Minneapolis program, Daryeel Group Home Daycare, has the highest possible rating of Four Stars.

Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Daryeel Group Home Daycare

Make a Difference for Give to the Max Day

Think Small is participating in Give to the Max Day on Nov. 17. Thgive-to-the-maxe annual event, sponsored by GiveMN, encourages Minnesotans to donate to their favorite nonprofits and charities on the same day.

Launched in 2009, Give to the Max Day raised $14 million in just 24 hours its first year. Now, thousands of organizations take part in the event to help improve Minnesotan’s quality of life.

Continue reading Make a Difference for Give to the Max Day

Closing Opportunity Gaps to Shrink Achievement Gaps

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

The opportunity gap is one of the biggest obstacles our education system faces today.

As highlighted in a Minnpost op-ed written by Think Small President, Barbara Yates:

“Our achievement gaps start as opportunity gaps, where children do not have access to the opportunities they need to flourish and reach their full potential.”

Continue reading Closing Opportunity Gaps to Shrink Achievement Gaps

Minneapolis Launches “Talking is Teaching” Campaign to Close Word Gap

By Maya Fanjul-Debnam

By age four, children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than their more well-off peers, setting them on very different trajectories for early literacy. The disparity is jarring, and in order to combat it, Minneapolis launched a language development program called ‘Talking is Teaching.’

The campaign is meant to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their children every day. It sounds simple, but this helps strengthen language skills at a crucial time in a child’s life. Studies show that the most critical time for brain development is from birth to age three. The first three years of life are when all of the neuron connections are occurring, something that can’t happen without stimulation from a relationship-based encounter.

Continue reading Minneapolis Launches “Talking is Teaching” Campaign to Close Word Gap