Located on 1st Street and Auer Avenue in the northeast Milwaukee neighborhood of Harambee, Malaika Early Learning Center is a state-licensed childcare center and a private, Choice-eligible four- and five-year-old kindergarten program that provides a safe, nurturing place for children to learn and grow.
The concepts and design for the center were developed over a year’s time, based on a framework created by Dr. Gary Childrey, an African-American child psychologist and director of DePaul University’s Community Mental Health program, who has done extensive work in Cabrini Green and other impoverished areas of Chicago.
Malaika’s early childhood learning program emulates the model programs proven to be the most effective. We use a specially-designed early childhood curriculum that maximizes opportunities for early learning, featuring:
- Low student-teacher ratios
- Highly-trained, caring staff
- High teacher expectations
- Comprehensive curriculum with enrichment activities such as music, foreign language, nature exploration and educational field trips
- Extensive family-involvement program
- Spacious, stimulating, child-appropriate facility
Our programs include:
0- to 3-year-old program
The curriculum emphasizes activities to develop important cognitive skills in infants & toddlers. All staff are licensed and work one-on-one with children to help address any deficiencies or challenges.
Student-teacher ratio: 6-7 to 2
4- and 5-year-old kindergarten
Teachers use industry-best curriculums to ensure each child is proficient or exceeds the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards. Each class is led by a certified teacher.
Student-teacher ratio: 7 to 1 for K-4; 10 to 1.5 for K-5.
Malaika provides a safe, nurturing place for children 6 weeks to 12 years of age before and after school. Like the center’s other programs, highly qualified teachers lead the before/after school program, which provides a rich educational environment for participants.
Malaika’s summer program emphasizes academic assistance, development of social skills and teamwork, and exploration of the larger community, as well as superb art enrichment featuring Artists Working in Education (AWE).
Malaika’s state-of-the-art learning facility serves an average of 100 children per day across all our programs during the school year.
Special Program Features Malaika’s enrichment activities include:
- Music education through the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
- French language class through the Alliance Française de Milwaukee
- Nature education in partnership with the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
- Bi-monthly educational field trips
- Art enrichment by Artists Working in Education (AWE)
- Introduction to computer-based learning
All lesson plans are reviewed weekly by the school director
- Malaika has fully implemented the Creative Curriculum and Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards to provide consistency across the early education & care and kindergarten programs. All teachers have received 30 hours of training on how to use the Model Standards and Creative Curriculum.
- Malaika is also on the path to achieving accreditation from the respected National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Learn more about accreditation.
Hot, nutritious meals are served daily for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
- Two vans transport children to-and-from home when their parents are unable to do so.
- To ensure that parents can afford to bring their children to the center, Malaika uses a sliding fee scale and works with parents receiving W-2 benefits.
The Malaika center is a state-of-the-art learning facility, built in 2003 by local philanthropists Dennis and Kellie Mueller. The facility features:
- A bright, spacious, stimulating and beautifully-decorated interior
- Child-safe design with pinch-free doors throughout
- Enclosed outdoor playground with specially selected equipment and soft-surface activity areas
- Lunchroom with hot, nutritious meals served daily for breakfast, lunch and snacks
- Multi-purpose room for music education and other activities
- Computer access in classrooms
- Security system
In 2010 Malaika received an anonymous $15,000 grant to purchase computers and software for K-4 and K-5 classrooms. This access to computer technology enhances our students’ learning, helps them develop their fine motor skills, and keeps them current with our modern, digital environment.
Family Enrichment Program
Each school year, our parents complete an average of 85 hours of parent-involvement activities, such as:
- Parent training on topics including: discipline vs. punishment, stimulating child brain development, and maintaining healthy relationships
- Enhanced Childhood Head Start workshops
- Milwaukee Fatherhood Summit
- Parent/teacher conferences
- Family Fun Night
- Family of Love
- Grandparents Day
- Fathers & Grandfathers Day
- Mothers & Grandmothers Day
- Women to Women
- Boys to Men
- School plays
- Harvest/Costume Parade
- Donuts for Dads
- Valentine Treats
- End-of-year picnic
- Educational and fun field trips, such as:
- Milwaukee Public Museum
- Milwaukee County Zoo
- Barthel’s Fruit Farm
- Swan’s Pumpkin Farm
- UWM and Bucks basketball
- Trip to circus
While these activities are fun for parents and children, their benefit goes far beyond enjoyment. Children with involved parents are more likely to:
- Attend school regularly
- Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
- Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
- Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
- Graduate and go on to post-secondary education
Benefits of parent-involvement activities for parents include:
- More confidence in the school
- Higher teacher expectations of their children
- Higher teacher opinions of themselves as parents
- More self-confidence
In addition, if low-income parents are involved in their children’s preschool program, those children at age 19 are:
- 40 percent MORE likely to graduate from high school
- 35 percent MORE likely to be employed
- 55 percent LESS likely to be on welfare
- 40 percent LESS likely to have been arrested
High Expectations & Great Outcomes
Malaika has high expectations of the students and families we serve. We expect that:
- Children will exhibit age-appropriate social, emotional and cognitive skills
- Parents will understand their role in child development and participate in the child’s educational process
- Students will “graduate” from Malaika at or above grade level for their next stage of education
For evidence of Malaika’s effectiveness, examine the Head Start Outcomes survey results. Between fall 2007 and January 2008, Malaika 3- and 4-year-olds eligible for Head Start increased on every outcome measured, including:
- Emergent literacy
- Pre-academic math/science
- Music/art/creative play
- Fine motor skills
Each student at Malaika is assessed quarterly to determine his or her physical and emotional developmental needs and progress. This information is used by teachers in their day-to-day planning to ensure students’ needs are addressed.
Ultimately, Malaika’s high quality early childhood education prepares children for elementary school success, with 95% of our students leaving Malaika at or above grade level for their next stage of education and 90% of our students going on to quality private schools.
Malaika maintains strong relationships with private schools – such as Eastbrook Academy, the Hope schools, Martin Luther King, Messmer Preparatory, and St. Marcus Lutheran – that share Malaika’s educational and parental-involvement philosophy.
Malaika hosts open houses where parents of Malaika students meet representatives of these schools and prepare to continue their children’s exemplary education.
Malaika also hosts the monthly Hands Around First Street Block Club neighborhood meetings, maintaining our strong presence in the surrounding Harambee community.
Only 10-15% of Milwaukee early childhood programs are accredited, and Malaika is in the process of joining that select group. Although the process is rigorous, costly and time-consuming, Malaika’s board of directors and staff agree it’s important to demonstrate that Malaika provides the same high quality childcare to central city families that is typically available to more affluent families.
Accreditation will also validate Malaika’s educational model and serve to remind us that all children deserve high quality early childhood care.
Malaika is pursuing accreditation from the respected National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The NAEYC accreditation standards ensure the quality of children’s daily experiences in early childhood programs and promote positive outcomes. NAEYC’s strict, four-step process includes four focus areas and ten program standards:
Focus Area: Children
Standard 1: Relationships
Standard 2: Curriculum
Standard 3: Teaching
Standard 4: Assessment of Child Progress
Standard 5: Health
Focus Area: Teaching Staff
Standard 6: Teacher qualifications and skills
Focus Area: Partnerships
Standard 7: Families
Standard 8: Community Relationships
Focus Area: Administration
Standard 9: Physical Environment
Standard 10: Leadership and Management
Malaika’s pursuit of accreditation has been generously supported by a multi-year grant from the Richard & Ethel Herzfeld Foundation.
“Research Spotlight on Parental Involvement in Education,” http://www.nea.org/tools/17360.htm