As the Greater Philadelphia region’s most trusted partner for quality improvement and technical assistance, First Up has supported the advancement of Early Childhood Education organizations for over half a century.

New Model Design – the Urban Nature Preschool

At First Up, we use our expertise and intuition to anticipate change in the Early Childhood Education sector, both regionally and nationally, and help organizations created future-focused methodologies that benefit our youngest learners. An excellent example of this is our longstanding partnership with Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse to develop the region’s first Urban Nature Preschool.

“At the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature,” writes Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

With the increased encroachment of “screen time” into many children’s daily, if not hourly, lives, it has become evermore essential to ensure that children have safe access to exploratory outdoor experiences. The Urban Nature Preschool at Smith Memorial Playground will demonstrate a unique and effective approach to Early Childhood Education. As one of the first of its kind in the nation, this program will serve as an example for how new models can use established wisdom in upgraded ways that are responsive to current community needs.

Check out our video, featuring Sharon Easterling, former Executive Director of First Up, and Meg Wise, Smith Memorial Playground’s Executive Director, to discover the new model design supporting the Urban Nature Preschool.

Bridging ECE and Traditional Education

First Up’s knowledgeable and dedicated staff stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our on-the-ground educators and partners, providing a comprehensive yet accessible network of resources to effectively help professionals at all levels of expertise.

The goal of the P3 Communities of Practice Project is twofold: first, to build collaboration and connection between early childhood and elementary school teachers and systems. Second: to identify effective teaching practices that support meaningful early learning.

Through our P-3 Alignment Project we are improving the educational experience of young learners by increasing hands-on and inquiry-based learning in our partner schools. By facilitating family and community engagement within early education, we’re co-creating a new learning process that aligns instruction and experiences as a continuum from pre-K through third grade.

Coalition Building with Regional Universities

First Up is proud to be a member of the West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning Initiative (AFEL), a Drexel University-led collaboration of social service agencies, education organizations, and community stakeholders that works together to create an education support system for families in the 19104 zip code; specifically in the high-need, high-poverty neighborhoods of West Philadelphia, known collectively as the West Philadelphia Promise Zone.

As a part of Drexel’s Office of University and Community Partnerships, AFEL aims to build awareness around the importance of Early Childhood Education while strengthening the capacity of neighborhood childcare centers. It also supports pre-K through third grade instruction with a strong emphasis on literacy so that children are better prepared to read at grade level.

For more information on collaborating with AFEL in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, contact Kendra Thomas, Sr. Early Learning Specialist.

Quality Improvement & STARS Technical Assistance

As a respected voice for Early Childhood Education (ECE), First Up creates and implements training with a specific focus on enabling access and inspiring excellence at the very beginning of every child’s educational journey. A foundational service to foster this excellence is our STARS Technical Assistance program, an intensive, one-on-one service we provide to an ECE or School Age Child Care (SAC) facility to enable the program to meet specific Keystone STARS Performance Standards.

First Up’s individualized services and supports helps motivated teams improve their program quality and thus advance upwards to the next STAR level. Each engagement is customized by First Up’s expert ECE Consultants to fit each facility’s unique needs, and may include some or all of the following to help each team achieve success:

  • Strength-based assessments
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Career advising
  • Cohort facilitation
  • Subject-specific training
  • Operational / technical assistance

First Up is also a longtime partner to United Way’s Success By 6® program, where we help to improve the level of education provided at regional child care centers by providing full-spectrum technical assistance specifically designed to raise existing STAR 2 programs to STAR 3. First Up’s experienced consultants provide training to early childhood educators to ensure that they are engaging children in effective ways while also educating parents on their crucial role in supporting and nurturing their child’s learning. Finally, educators learn how to best intervene when additional support is needed for specific children. This holistic approach creates a newly supportive system to ensure the highest-quality care for our youngest learners.

To learn more about our Quality Improvement and Technical Assistance services, please contact Lisa Schultz, Director of Programs.

Quality Rating Accreditation Support

After regional performance standards are secured, many early childhood care and education facilities seek accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This voluntary accreditation system sets professional standards for Early Childhood Education programs and helps families identify high-quality programs in their area. First Up provides skilled coaching and vetted resources to help regional programs gain this accreditation.

Are you seeking first time or re-accreditation? Contact Lisa Schultz, Director of Programs, or visit the NAEYC Accreditation Program to learn more and get started.