What are the qualifications of staff? What are the teachers’ educational backgrounds?
Each classroom always has a teacher certified by the Department of Early Education and Care. Most of our teachers (65%) have their Associates or Bachelor’s degrees and are also continuing their education by taking evening courses. If a teacher is not certified, Little Sprouts requires them to be working toward certification. Over and above these requirements, our educators participate in over 25 hours of formal trainings each year through seminars and workshops including our annual in-service CHILD Conference. Furthermore, we offer ongoing coaching and mentoring by our administrative staff including the Human Resource Director, Regional Director, Literacy Coaches and Literacy Director, and our Pathfinder. Every employee is certified in CPR and First Aid. Every prospective employee receives a criminal and DSS background screening prior to consideration for employment.
What are the teacher-child ratios?
We adhere to the Massachusetts Department for Early Education and Care regulations:
- Infant room = 2 adults to 7 children
- Toddler room = 2 adults to 9 children
- Preschool room = 1 adult to 10 children
- Kindergarten room = 1 adult to 13 children
- School Age programs = 1 adult to 15 children
We often exceed the required amount of adults in a group due to the literacy coaches, resource administrators, and paraprofessionals working in our classrooms with the teachers.
What is security like?
We have key pads at the entrances of our programs. Families and staff have codes which release the door. Anyone else must be manually allowed to enter the center. We request photo identification for anyone we do not know to enter the building. Families designate emergency contacts and authorized pick-up individuals in the enrollment paperwork. These are the only people the teachers will release a child to. Furthermore, we require photo identification for these authorized people, including parents and guardians, if the teacher does not know them. We will not release any child to an unauthorized pick-up person or an authorized person who comes without photo identification.
Do you offer meals?
We serve breakfast including cereal, fruit, pancakes, bagels, and french toast until 8:30am. We also serve a mid-morning snack and afternoon snack.
Families do need to provide a lunch for their child in a lunchbox that includes an ice pack. We will warm ready-made and prepared lunches in a microwave. We provide milk to all children at lunchtime.
We do not provide lunch because we believe at this age each child is acquiring very specific ideas about the meals they eat and that many families provide meals based on their family preferences and culture. Lunch ideas are provided in our Family Handbook.
What types of snacks do you serve?
We belong to the USDA meal program. We offer fresh fruits, vegetable, fruit bars, crackers with cheese, and other balanced options. We coordinate the snack menus to ensure the food groups served at each snack time and at breakfast are balanced, and that something from each of the primary food groups is served each day.
Are you peanut-free?
Yes, we have children with life threatening allergies to peanut products. Being peanut-free is the safest way for us to ensure the safety of children with these allergies.
How do staff members handle children who have behavioral problems such as biting, hitting, or kicking?
Our discipline philosophy includes a problem-solving approach. Our goal is that children learn how to work out conflict in a socially acceptable and peaceful manner. Some behaviors that can appear aggressive are in fact developmentally appropriate. For example, toddlers who are not yet verbal often bite to communicate or express themselves, or can display this behavior simply when they are very stimulated. Preschool children are still learning how to communicate through dialogue and are also still impulsive by nature.
All socially inappropriate behaviors are redirected, and desired behaviors are modeled by educators. Teachers use natural and logical consequences to assist children in learning self-control. We do not practice 'time-outs' because it can cause a child to feel rejected or isolated because of the group setting. We want to encourage a child to take time to calm down and recollect, and a time-out makes it seem like that practice is punitive and negative. Instead, we promote a 'renewal time' in which a child may take a break from the current activity and sit down to regroup in a designated quiet area with adult support nearby. Ongoing aggressive behaviors are looked at on an individual and situational basis. It is our priority to maintain a safe environment for all children. Action plans, including formal referrals and family meetings, are often part of these action plans.
What does the daily routine and curriculum look like? Do the kids get outside during the day?
The children go outside twice each day. Other parts of the daily routine include a meeting time in which children and teachers come together for a story, class discussion, and group activities. Large group time includes literacy learning and music and movement experiences. We also offer a variety of planned activities, both teacher- and child-directed, in small and large groups. Our lesson plans consist of intentional activities and teaching times that have specific goals and outcomes for the whole group of children as well as for the individual development of each child.
Our preschool and toddler lesson plans are correlated with the Massachusetts Department of Education Curriculum frameworks. To ensure students receive the scaffolded literacy exposure that is crucial for later reading success, preschool teachers use formal, scientifically-researched curricula to guide their activities. In our Early Reading First classrooms we use 'We Can!', and in the non-ERF classrooms, 'Between the LIONS'. All preschool classrooms also use the science curriculum based on 'Peep and the Big Wide World'. We also believe in and practice the High/Scope Approach. This teaching method encourages teachers to partner with children and support learning in an active setting.
What is the policy regarding children who are mildly ill? Can they come to school with a cold and a runny nose?
Some illnesses, including any communicable viruses, have a specific protocol which may include a doctor’s note or the child being symptom-free for a designated period of time before returning to the program. Mild illnesses such as a cold are measured by the symptoms and the child’s comfort level. We take every measure possible to keep our classrooms healthy. This includes consistent hand washing and sanitizing.
Do you go outside in the winter?
Fresh air and physical exercise are very important for children. We do go outside year-round and require families to provide weather appropriate clothing. In the winter this means boots, hats, and snow pants. When it is raining heavily or the wind chill is at freezing, we do not go outside and will instead plan indoor motor activities. The Directors at the schools will also use discretion regarding infants and toddlers going outside during the winter months. When children are dressed accordingly, going outside does not contribute to illness or colds. In fact, exposure to fresh air is better for their health. If you do not want your child going outside due to a mild illness then we ask you do not send your child to school that day.