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Highlighting An Accredited Program: Phipps Head Start

The Phipps Head Start opened in April of 1999 in a brand new space on the ground floor of a low income residential building built by the program's sponsoring agency's parent company, Phipps Houses. The program and staff serve 78 children and their families with programming for parents as well as a comprehensive early education program for children.

Because Head Start programs serve very low income children, often the families have a great deal of stress due to issues related to poverty. According to Phipps CDC Assistant Executive Director, Jeannette Corey, "We value the opportunity we are given to support our children, but also realize how important it is to support families. For that reason, a big part of what we do is related to parents. Their personal goals are supported as we connect them to GED programs, college guidance programs, ESL classes, citizenship classes, and work readiness programs."

Phipps Head Start program is a year-round program and serves all children from 8:30 until 3:30. Children whose parents work or who are in school may participate in an extended day program. One of Phipps Head Start program's main goals is to guide the children's development in all areas by providing well-rounded, play-based learning experiences that are hands-on and meaningful. Children explore table top materials first thing in the morning, sing, dance and read poems at Circle Time, explore learning centers and project-based activities at Choice Time and move their muscles during outdoor time.

The Phipps Head Start program believes wholeheartedly in engaging families in the early learning process. For instance, families participate in setting goals for their child and whenever possible, information and materials are sent home so that children can practice what they are learning at home with their families. For example, sending playdough and a playdough recipe home with a child and his or family is a common occurrence so that the family can learn how simple materials can help a child grow.

The program also invites the parents into the program as much as possible. Families are celebrated with 'Special Days' when they come into their child's classroom and share a story, cook a dish or teach a dance that is special to them.

In addition to their focus on engaging parents in their child's learning, Phipps Head Start offers regular activities which are fun and build community between the families, including potluck picnics in fall and spring, a winter holiday party and a 'step up' ceremony celebration at the end of August where the year of learning is celebrated. The Phipps Head Start families also join a larger community when they attend a family picnic in Bear Mountain in the summer with the staff and families of the Lambert Head Start - another Phipps CDC-sponsored program.

Phipps Head Start has been accredited for four and half years, first receiving accreditation in July 2004. They are currently in the process of reaccreditation. Assistant Executive Director Jeanette Corey states that, "The process of becoming accredited, has kept us focused on what is important and valuable in an early learning environment. It forces us to evaluate what we do with our children and families and it keeps us disciplined about how we document what we do."