AMES, Iowa -- Children in child care need safe environments, strong relationships with caring and competent adults, and access to a variety of learning opportunities and materials. That is why Iowa State University Extension and Outreach teaches early childhood professionals how to use Environment Rating Scales. The scales are tools they can use to ensure they are following best practices and providing high quality care, says Cindy Thompson, a human sciences specialist who provides the training.
“Supporting high quality child care is critical to the success of Iowa children and families,” said Thompson, who specializes in family life issues. “Iowa consistently ranks at the top in the country for percentage of children under 6 years of age who potentially need child care due to a parent’s employment.”
A unique collaboration between the Iowa Department of Human Services, Child Care Resource and Referral, and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach provides early childhood professionals with professional development opportunities focused on Environment Rating Scales.
The needs of children across the first six years of life vary dramatically. To address this variation, four Environment Rating Scales were developed: one for infant and toddler care, one for preschool care, one for school age care and one for the unique considerations of in-home, family child care settings.
“The key components of each scale are the same, such as personal care routines, learning activities, and space and furnishings, but high quality looks different depending on the setting,” Thompson explained. Each scale also has the same 7-point scoring framework, which ranges from inadequate to excellent.
Funding through the Iowa Department of Human Services, as well as other early childhood stakeholders across the state, supports these professional development opportunities provided by Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Through the four-session Environment Rating Scale trainings, professionals learn how to use the scale in their child care setting, learn why the different components of the scale are important, and identify personal areas of strength, as well as possible areas of improvement.
“Reflecting critically on how to better meet children’s needs using a nationally recognized tool makes these training opportunities a unique professional development opportunity,” Thompson said.
Approximately 40 ERS series are offered across Iowa each year. Child Care Resource and Referral partners closely with human sciences specialists to secure training locations, market the opportunity to early childhood professionals, and provide logistical support during the face-to-face training series. An online option is also available for each version of the Environment Ratings Scale training.
“The positive outcomes of high quality, child care environments for children and families are well documented,” Thompson said. “The Environment Rating Scale trainings provide a framework to support early care and education professionals in understanding and achieving best practices to support those outcomes.”
For more information on the Environment Rating Scale trainings, go to https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/ers.
Photo credit: New Africa/stock.adobe.com