Little Hearts, Big Empathy: How YWCA Minneapolis is Making Preschool More Personal

A chance for success is every parent’s dream for their children, and research shows that kids’ opportunities are amplified by early childhood education.

Education Week magazine gave Minnesota an “A” on its Chance-for-Success index in its most recent (2021) rankings, and Minnesota was ranked 4th best in the nation for providing a strong foundation and getting kids off to a good start in education. In other words, it can be possible that “all the children are above average” in Minnesota, as the wistful Lake Wobegon tagline goes.

Before, during, and as the pandemic waned, YWCA Minneapolis Early Childhood Education program never wavered in its commitment to creating a chance for success for its lifelong learners. It is NAEYC accredited and Four-Star Parent Aware-rated, and its Anti-Bias and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum for all children six weeks and older is focused on giving kids a strong foundation, ensuring they feel valued and that they value others.

Playing With Purpose

Helping preschoolers engage with learning, develop problem-solving skills, and discover how to manage their emotions is part of the everyday activities at YWCA’s five Early Childhood Education locations.

“We wanted our family to belong to a place that felt like a community and where each of our children would be valued and respected. It is very empowering as parents that our children are creating positive thoughts and feelings of self-worth at such a young age.” YWCA parents Angela and Jermaine

Free play helps expand children’s social skills, and hands-on experiences are designed to increase literacy and build kindergarten readiness skills to ensure a successful start to a lifelong journey of learning. Other activities are designed to help early learners get some exercise while increasing their gross motor skills. They skip, run, jump, ride scooters, and play interactive games like hopscotch, soccer, and basketball.

Art experiences are also part of the everyday curriculum, allowing young scholars to invent, experiment, and express themselves creatively. Interactive math and science opportunities introduce preschoolers to basic concepts they will build upon beyond Pre-K. And STEAM learning is infused into everyday activities.

Building Positive Self-Identity

The Anti-Bias curriculum gives youngsters a start on understanding human differences and similarities—that we are all unique and special individuals.

Those ideas live in the classrooms, with play and daily lessons that reflect children’s culture, language, and community. By honoring culture and inclusivity, preschoolers see their life experiences in their classroom environment, the books they read, and daily curriculum activities.

The curriculum provides opportunities for children to build positive self-esteem, which in turn supports their social and emotional health. It also opens the door for students to consider their social responsibility, with class activities that explore community needs, see how change is made, and discover how they can become helpful community members.

Learning Built Around Family Involvement

Research shows that a key component of the learning process—for children of all ages—is strong family engagement. That’s why family is built into all parts of the child’s early learning journey with YWCA Minneapolis.

“I loved how the program took advantage of neighborhood resources, like field trips to the Swedish Institute and Midtown Global Market.” YWCA parent Margaret

Recognized as an exemplary program for keeping families involved with their children’s early education, the YWCA Minneapolis Early Childhood Education program focuses on “Six Principles of Effective Family Engagement,” which include:

  • Inviting families to participate in decision making and goal setting for their children’s education, both at home and school.
  • Engaging families in two-way communication that is timely, continuous, and focused on the child’s educational experience.  
  • Encouraging families to share unique knowledge and skills to help teachers integrate those ideas into their curriculum and practices.
  • Providing learning activities for the home and in the community, to enhance each child’s early learning and create a learning environment beyond the program.
  • Including families in program-level decisions and advocacy efforts for early childhood education in the wider community.
  • Assuring a comprehensive program-level system of family engagement, to ensure that teachers, administrators, and staff receive the support they need to fully engage families.

The goal of early childhood education is to give each child the building blocks for lifelong well-being. The benefits make a difference for families, the community, and the state—so all Minnesota kids can be above average in fact, not just in stories.

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