Maria Hernandez: Creando un salón de clase mágico, usando una botella plástica a la vez

Algunos de nuestros momentos favoritos en WECA involucran conocer proveedores increíbles que van más allá en su trabajo. María Hernández, propietaria de Green Planet’s Daycare en Milwaukee, es un excelente ejemplo.

Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet's DaycareMientras Pam Polenz, directora de reclamos del Programa de Comidas, estaba acompañando a Alice Gómez Palacio, coordinadora de área del Programa de Comidas, ella sabía que estaba a punto de ver algo espectacular.

“Tan pronto como puse un pie en su patio delantero, inmediatamente me llamó la atención su creatividad única”, compartió Pam. “Tenía estas grandes estructuras de metal en el patio delantero que me llamaron la atención. Sabía que iba a ser una visita emocionante “.

El interior no fue la excepción. Brotado en una parte del aula había un árbol de tamaño natural. Lo que lo hizo fascinante fue que estaba hecho completamente de papel maché. Dispersos a lo largo de las paredes colgaban flores coloridas hechas de botellas de plástico y latas de metal. Una oruga hambrienta, hecha de vasos de plástico verde, estaba sentada en la parte superior de la estantería. Un reloj amarillo, transformado en sol, colgaba de una pared.

“María tiene talento”, agregó Pam. “Fue muy inspirador ver su habilidad para tomar objetos comunes y transformarlos en herramientas mágicas de enseñanza. Su talento cosecha un fuerte ambiente de aprendizaje para los niños bajo su cuidado ¡es asombroso!”

Le pedimos a Maria, participante del Programa de Alimentos de WECA desde 2013, que reflexionara sobre su pasión por enseñar a los niños y su enfoque en el reciclaje.

¿Por qué decidió comenzar a cuidar niños en su hogar?
Mi meta siempre ha sido implementar algo diferente en mi guardería de cómo cuidar nuestro medio ambiente por ello el nombre de “Green Planet’s Day Care”. Ya que cada uno de nosotros podemos marcar una diferencia para tener un nuevo mundo reciclando.

Mi pasión siempre ha sido apreciar y valorar la niñez cómo una etapa única y valiosa en la vida del ser humano y cómo proveedora tengo la responsabilidad de brindarle a los niños un ambiente seguro, saludable y estimulante, por ello me comprometo a crear un plan de trabajo qué cubra desde las rutinas diarias, hasta las actividades relacionadas con las áreas y centros de la clase, sin dejar ninguna pendiente, pues todas ellas van de la mano y estas se transforman en el niño en su totalidad.

IMG954291¿Qué originó esta idea de un cuidado enfocado en el reciclaje?
La idea se originó a través de mi trabajo en México en una comunidad rural donde había escasez de recursos para obtener los materiales necesarios para trabajar con los niños. Por lo tanto, siempre tenía qué reciclar los materiales y los niños tenían la oportunidad de reciclar los materiales, dándole un nuevo uso en el salón de clases.

¿De dónde obtiene sus materiales reciclados?
Los materiales reciclados los obtengo en su mayoría con las familias de los niños, recolectamos diferentes materiales de reciclaje. También reciclo lo que consumimos en mi hogar.

¿Cuáles son algunas de las actividades favoritas que hace con los niños usando los materiales reciclados?
Una de las actividades favoritas que más les gusta a los niños es hacer *maracas con botellas de agua y flores con cartones de huevo y rollos de papel. También les gusta hacer **alebrijes los cuáles son típicos de México. Esto les permite desarrollar su creatividad elaborando su propio arte.

¿Los niños bajo su cuidado crean cosas que están en su colección de arte reciclado?
¡Así es!  los niños mayores ayudaron a poner la corteza del árbol usando papel periódico y pintura no toxica, así cómo también cortaron flores con las botellas de plástico.

¿Si otros proveedores de cuidado infantil familiar quisieran utilizar su idea, cómo podrían comenzar?
Primeramente invitar a las familias a aprender a recolectar diferentes tipos de materiales qué consumimos día a día cómo el cartón, plástico, papel, envolturas, latas, tapas, etc.. para luego motivar a los niños a que ellos mismos separen los desechos o “basura” que se pueden reutilizar. Así mismo, enseñar tanto a los padres y niños la importancia de practicar las 3 “Rs” (Reducir, Reutilizar y Reciclar).Flowers made from plastic bottles

¿Cuál es la importancia, para los niños en su cuidado, que usen productos reciclados?
Mi meta es ofrecer a las familias la mejor experiencia de calidad protegiendo nuestro medio ambiente; crear conciencia y enseñarles a los niños, desde edades tempranas, a reciclar todos los días. Es importante guiar a los niños para que sean responsables primordialmente por nuestro planeta ya que esta será su responsabilidad futura.

¿Alguna idea que le gustaría compartir con otros proveedores para todo el estado de Wisconsin?
Además de reciclar adecuadamente, es importante motivar a los padres, familias y o amigos de los niños que acuden a la guardería, que se propongan trabajar en equipo para limpiar nuestro vecindario frecuentemente juntando la basura que hay en nuestras calles, y no esperar para hacerlo sólo el 22 de abril que es el día de la tierra, para crear conciencia de cuidar y proteger nuestro medio ambiente. También, es fundamental motivar a los niños a elaborar huertos y enseñarles el proceso de plantar semillas de vegetales, flores y diferentes tipos de plantas que no sean dañinas para el niño, esto ayudará a que ellos tengan la oportunidad de ver crecer las plantas y cuidarlas ellos mismos.

¿Algún otro mensaje para compartir?
Es muy importante si cada proveedor inculca a los padres el formar parte de un proyecto de reciclaje para así comenzar desde el hogar, ya que vivimos en un país multicultural en donde consumimos día a día diferentes tipos de productos los cuáles, si no los reciclamos, tardarán muchos años en deshacerse por sí mismos lo que continuaría afectando nuestro planeta.

Nos gustaría agradecer a María por compartir su pasión por el reciclaje e incorporarlo en su centro de cuidado infantil familiar. Si está buscando impulsar sus esfuerzos de reciclaje en su centro, ¡tenemos noticias para usted! Maria presentará un taller en nuestra Conferencia de WECA 2018 en octubre. Este taller será una experiencia práctica donde podrá crear herramientas mágicas de aprendizaje para su propio centro.

Maria Hernandez: Making a Magical Classroom, One Plastic Bottle at a Time

Some of our favorite moments at WECA involve meeting amazing providers who go above and beyond in their work. Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet’s Daycare in Milwaukee, is a prime example.

While on a shadow evaluation with Food Program area coordinator, Alice Gomez Palacio, Pam Polenz, Food Program Claims Director, knew she was about to see something spectacular.

Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet's Daycare

“As soon as I stepped foot onto her front yard, I was immediately struck by her unique creativity,” Pam shared. “She had these large metal structures in her front yard that caught my eye. I knew it was going to be an exciting visit.”

Inside was no exception. Sprouted in one part of the classroom stood a life-sized tree. What made it fascinating was that it was made entirely out of papier-mâché. Scattered along the walls hung colorful flowers made from plastic bottles and metal cans. A hungry caterpillar made from green plastic cups sat on top of bookshelf. A yellow clock hung on a wall transformed into the sun.

“Maria has talent,” Pam added. “It was so inspiring to see her ability to take ordinary objects and transform them into magical teaching tools. Her talent harvests a strong learning environment for the kids in her care; it’s amazing.”

We asked Maria, a WECA Food Program participant since 2013, to reflect on her passion of teaching children and her focus on recycling.

Why did you decide to start caring for children in your home?
My goal has always been to implement something different in my daycare on how to take care of our environment. This is why my program is called “Green Planet’s Day Care.” Each one of us can make a difference in our world by recycling.

My passion has always been to appreciate and value childhood as a unique and valuable stage in the life of a human. As a provider, I have a responsibility to offer children a safe, healthy and stimulating environment. I am committed to creating a work plan covering from daily routines to activities related to the areas and centers of the classroom. They go hand in hand, and together help transform a child entirety.

How did this idea of a focus on recycling originate?
The idea originated through my work in Mexico in a rural community where there was a shortage of resources and materials necessary for working with children. I always had to recycle materials and the children had the opportunity to also recycle materials to give them a new use in the classroom.

Where do you get your recycled materials?
I mostly get the recycled materials from the families in my program. We collect different recycling materials and I also recycle what we consume in my home.

IMG954291What are some favorite activities you do with children using recycled materials?
One of the favorite activities that children like is making “maracas” with bottles of water, and making flowers with egg cartons and rolls of paper. They also like to make “alebrijes,” which are typical of Mexico. By making their own art, children develop their creativity.

*Maracas are a pair of rattles made from gourds.

**Alebrijes are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical/mythicial creatures.

Do children in your care create things that are in your recycled art collection?
Yes! Older children helped put on the tree bark using newspaper and non-toxic paint. They also cut the flowers made of plastic bottles.

If other family child care providers would like to use your idea, how could they start?
First, invite families to learn how to collect diverse types of materials that our programs can consume day by day, like cardboard, plastic, paper, wrappers, cans, lids, etc. Teach both parents and children the importance of practicing the 3 “Rs” (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), and motivate them to learn new ways that “junk” can be re-used.

Why is it important for children to use recycled products?
My goal is to offer families the best quality experience while protecting our environment. I create awareness and teach children, from the early years, to recycle every day. It is important to guide children to be responsible for our planet as this will be their future responsibility.

Flowers made from plastic bottlesAny ideas that you would like to share with other providers?
Besides recycling properly, it is important to motivate parents, families and children’s friends to work as a team cleaning our neighborhoods, often picking up the garbage from the streets. We can’t wait to do this only on Earth day; every day we need to create awareness of caring for and protecting our environment.

Also, it is essential to motivate children to plant gardens and teach them the process of planting vegetables, flowers and diverse types of plants that are not harmful to children. This will give them the opportunity to see the plants grow and to take care of them.

Any other messages to share?
It is very important that each provider engage parents to be part of a recycling project. We start from home, since we live in a multicultural country where we consume many types of products day by day. If we do not recycle, it will take many years for it all to decompose and our planet will continue to be harmed.

We would like to thank Maria for sharing her passion for recycling and incorporating it into her family child care center. If you are looking to boost your recycling efforts in your center, we have exciting news! Maria will be presenting at our 2018 WECA Conference in October.  Her workshop will be hands-on experience where you can create magical learning tools for your own center.

Tammy Dannhoff: Family Child Care Trailblazer

At WECA, we work to advance positive change for children by focusing on the professionals who provide child care for well over 70% of Wisconsin’s children. That’s why we’re thrilled to share news of one family child care provider who’s a trailblazer in women-owned businesses in Wisconsin.

Tammy Donnhoff, 2018 Trailblazer Awards for Women in Business

Tammy Dannhoff, owner of Kids Are Us Family Child Care and recipient of the 2018 Governor’s Trailblazer Award for Women in Business.

Recently, Tammy Dannhoff, owner of Kids Are Us Family Child Care in Oshkosh, was one of 17 recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Trailblazer Awards for Women in Business. Tammy received the Pioneer Award that honors owners of majority women-owned Wisconsin businesses that have been in continuous operations for more than 25 years. The award honors women who started and sustained their business when there were limited resources or role models to do so, and who continue to be successful today.

Tammy, WECA member, Food Program participant, and T.E.A.C.H. and REWARD recipient, nominated herself in hopes of bringing much needed recognition to the family child care profession.

“I nominated myself for the award with encouragement from Leah Zastoupil President of WI Family Child Care Association,” Tammy shared.  “First, I never thought I had a chance to get the award, but wanted to apply in hopes of bringing recognition to the family child care profession because it is mostly overlooked, and when there is news it is usually not positive. So, when I received the email in March that I was selected, I was beyond excited and honored.”

“It was a wonderful experience all the way around. It was a very humbling experience to be with all the award recipients and listen to Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch talk about how important we all are. We as family child care providers don’t hear that enough.”

Family Child Care Provider, Tammy Donnhoff and Governor Scott Walker

Governor Scott Walker with Tammy Dannhoff during the award ceremony.

“After the Governor announced the awards, back in April, there was a lot of media contact and I feel it brought some much-needed positive publicity to the early childhood field, especially for family child care.  We are professionals and need to be recognized as that.”

“I am excited for her,” Suzette Warmus, WECA Food Program area coordinator said. “Tammy is an excellent child care provider, her home is a shining example of a safe, happy, learning center.  The fact that this award is outside of the child care world speaks volumes of her professionalism.”

“I want to thank WECA for T.E.A.C.H. and REWARD,” Tammy added. “If not for either of those programs, I would not be in business for as long as I have. Thank you for your commitment to providers and Wisconsin’s children.”

WECA recognizes the dedication providers like Tammy bring to our field. The work of educating and caring for our young children is both important and demanding. We’re proud and honored to be a part of Tammy’s family child care journey.

Let’s Eat, Family-Style: 4 Benefits Beyond a Healthy Meal

Let’s Eat, Family-Style: 4 Benefits Beyond a Healthy Meal

Agape Family Services Child Care Center

Children enjoy a family-style meal with Betty-Anne at Agape Family Services Childcare Center.

by Jennifer Hilgendorf, WECA Digital Marketing Manager

It’s lunch time at Agape Family Services Childcare Center in Sheboygan and children are getting ready to share a meal. Toddlers buckle themselves into their seats, 3-year olds start setting the table with real silverware, plates and cups, while owner and provider, Betty-Anne White, places their meal on the table. As the children pass the various dishes of food to their neighbors (yes, even those under the age of 2), the room is filled with excited chatter on what is being served. Once everyone has food they’ve chosen, together, they feast.

Serving family-style meals reap many rewards in not only a child’s nutrition, but also in their development. “I serve family style because it’s my desire to have children master foundational social skills before they enter school,” shared Betty-Anne. She is right. There are many valuable benefits in serving family style that go beyond having a nutritious meal.

_MG_0839-13Motor Skills: From balancing serving dishes, passing the pears, pouring the milk and scooping the grilled chicken- each task allows children to practice fine motor skills.

Language Skills: While serving different foods, children learn new words like jicama, quinoa, and kabobs. Don’t forget the wonderful conversations shared at the table while eating. Family-style dining provides a wonderful opportunity to sharpen language skills.

Social Skills: Nothing says practicing patience when a two-year old is waiting for her turn to serve herself peach slices. Practicing good table manners, saying please and thank you, are subtle moments that benefit children’s social skills.

Math Skills: Just how many homemade fish sticks does Dominic have? Let’s count! Eliza is responsible for getting one big spoon and two small spoons for serving. Which spoons did she choose and why? You can discover great math moments right there at the table.

Ready to switch to family-style dining? Follow Betty-Anne’s journey through her Facebook page and check out these simple tips on family-style dining from the USDA.

photo credit: Kith and Kin Photo
Jane Miller-Cleworth: A Vibrant Life with Children

Jane Miller-Cleworth: A Vibrant Life with Children

JaneMillerCAfter a long and enjoyable 32 years with WECA, Jane Miller-Cleworth will be retiring in September at the bright age of 88.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Jane for the past 15 years,” said Ruth Schmidt, WECA Executive Director.  “Jane has always brought the best balance of consummate professional, committed colleague and absolutely lovely person to her work .  WECA greatly appreciates Jane’s years of service to family child care providers and the children they serve.  We extend our heartfelt thanks to Jane and wish her all the best in retirement.”

Jane’s child care story began in 1973, when she and her partner Betty Cleworth saw the need for a preschool in their home town of Wisconsin Rapids. Jane attended child care classes at Mid-State Technical College and opened a childcare program in their church basement. “The center was mostly a nursery school with extended hours for childcare.” Jane explained.  It was licensed for 25 years and was moved into a home when the church rectory had to be torn down.  That group center, named B & J Learning Center, operated for more than 12 years. They sold their group center in 1991, and it still operates today-serving more than 150 children.

In addition to her group center, she and Betty started the Wood County Child Care Council, a support group for child care workers that is still operating today.

In 1987, Jane started her work at WECA. When asked why she decided to work for WECA, her answer was simple. “As far as I was concerned WECA was it!” she shared.  “I was already in Child Care but in a different capacity.  I enjoy working with people, and I felt my experiences could help others.” As a Food Program area coordinator, Jane served many Wisconsin counties, including Adams, Waushara, Portage and Wood. Her work helped hundreds of family child care providers maintain a healthy and nutritional meal program for kids in their care.

What makes Jane’s history amazing is she accomplished all of this even though at one point she was a single mother of nine children, six of them boys! Now, her children have spread their wings far and wide!  “Three settled in Wisconsin and one in Alabama, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, and Minnesota respectively, with one as far away as Saipan,” she shared.  “They work in healthcare, fitness, architecture, engineering, construction, teaching and state government.”

We will greatly miss Jane as she embarks on her new adventures in retirement. “I’m not sure what exactly I plan to do but it definitely will involve volunteer work,” she said. Something tells us she has plenty of places to visit as well.

WECA Staff Spotlight: Alice Gomez-Palacio

WECA Staff Spotlight: Alice Gomez-Palacio

Alice Gomez-Palacio, has been working as a WECA Food Program Area Coordinator for almost 15 years.  Alice brings a unique commitment to supporting family child care providers. Apart from her weekly job responsibilities, Alice goes that extra mile to personally meet with Spanish-speaking providers to train them on the Food Program’s online claiming system.

Alice

Alice Gomez-Palacio (L) teaching the Food Program’s online claiming system.

“I felt there was a need for the one-on-one training,” Alice says. “I am a visual learner, and noticed that some providers were embarrassed to ask for help. The majority of the providers I serve are Hispanic, and due to the language barrier, there is a need for visual assistance for the on-line program,” she adds

We applaud Alice for her solid work and dedication to the providers she serves. She eliminates the fear providers feel about learning new technology. “Providers have told me that they’re scared to go on-line because they will make mistakes,” Alice shared. “But as soon as they have done the training, they are amazed how simple it was. They tell me ‘Gosh Alice, I should have done this a long time ago!’”

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Learn more about CACFP.Net and WECA’s Food Program

Alice also provides continuous assistance whenever needed. “I assure them that I will be there to assist them with any questions. Providers are pleased when they know they are saving money by claiming online,” she adds.

All of us at the Food Program are pleased to have Alice leading the way to excellent service.

Little Changes Make a Healthy Difference: How one provider transformed her center and herself

Little Changes Make a Healthy Difference: How one provider transformed her center and herself

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Kim Bjorklund

Good nutrition and strong physical activity habits are essential for us all! For Kim Bjorklund, owner of Safe Haven Child Care Center, these became a life-changing journey.  After examining her program’s monthly menu with a local dietitian, Kim identified areas that needed to change.

It started when she noticed herself and the children in her care could benefit from better nutrition and healthy eating habits. “A parent told me her little guy could eat Alfredo sauce and noodles all day long. Her little guy was not little, at nine months, he was almost wearing a size 3T. I had 50 pounds to lose too.”

Kim, who has been a WECA Food Program provider since 2002, set out to be a good example for the children in her care by talking the talk. The result, more than 40 pounds lost to date.  “With only a few slight changes to my diet and walking every day, I lost weight! I could not have done this without the guidance from Sarah and her Child Physical Activity and Nutrition class.”

fp-cacfp-meal-pattern-changes-10-2017Here are Kim’s top five strategies for healthy kids and a healthy you!

  1. Eliminate fruit juice. Juice is loaded with sugar, and filled with empty calories. Instead, kids enjoy fruit-infused water or milk.
  2. Switch to whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Both contain more fiber, protein, and other healthy nutrients.
  3. Eliminate sweets after meals and for snacks. If you must, focus on a smaller serving size or serve fruit.
  4. Make outside play is a high-priority. “I make an effort to get outside more often to play games that promote large motor skills.”
  5. Plant a garden at your center. “We had pumpkins, beans, peas, onion, squash, radish, celery, tomatoes and one huge sunflower this year! The fresh produce ready to eat and learning experience for the children is a win-win for everyone.” Studies show that kids who are involved in planting, working in and harvesting a garden tend to eat the food they helped grow!

“My number one piece of advice is to be a good role model,” Kim shared. “Take care of yourself too. We are isolated with children all day, so it is easy for our weight to get out of hand. Little changes make a difference.”

Need more tips that can help transform your childcare programs into a healthy and vibrant one?  Our Healthy Bites Overview webinar provides an overview on developing a strong nutrition policy, the updated CACFP meal pattern requirements and information about YoungStar nutrition requirements. Watch it today!