Fall 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW2

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Kid's Stuff


Jeannette M. Debs
Cooperative Extension Agent
Kid's Stuff Director
Cooperative Extension, Broome County
Binghamton, New York

Preschoolers and teens-two audiences Broome County Extension realized weren't being reached by summer programs in local municipalities. Most of the programs offered were designed for 6-12 year olds. These activities didn't appeal to teens and were too advanced for preschoolers.

In 1975, Extension contacted the local summer youth employment agency (formerly CETA, now SYEP), and got its cooperation in setting up a preschool program with teens (paid by SYEP) as teacher aides. Next, we contacted local municipalities and the New York State Division for Youth to discuss funding sponsorship. Kid's Stuff was born.

The program is a combination of job and parenting training for teens, and socialization and education for preschoolers. The preschool components include: nutrition, pre-math, art, science, large motor skills and development, pre-reading, and socialization. The training for teens includes workshops on all these components, plus child development and discipline. To help teens understand how to work with preschoolers, a Cornell University series called Caring,1 is used when the supervising teachers continued the training in the field.

Parents play an essential role by providing nutritious snacks and beautiful junk, plus additional supervision at the site and transportation for field trips. In addition, we offered parent workshops to enrich awareness of child development and parenting. For the past several years, we have also been fortunate to have foster grandparents on several sites, thanks to the Broome County Office of Aging.

Each year, parents, supervising teachers, and teens are asked to evaluate what happens in the program. Clearly, parents are enthusiastic about the impact of the program on their preschoolers. Meanwhile, the teens indicate that our two goals for them of job and parenting training are accomplished.

In the early years of the program, parks were used as the sites, compliments of the parks department of the municipalities. More recently, school districts have donated kindergarten rooms to help the preschoolers make the transition to school attendance. This has helped alert the officials and taxpayers on the importance of the early years.

The funding match of local tax dollars and New York State Division for Youth money pays the salaries of the supervising teacher, the assistant director, mileage, and teaching supplies. Extension contributes the services of the director to recruit, hire, train, and supervise the supervising teachers (now 10), along with the assistant director. All the networking, coordinating, and negotiating is done by the Extension staff long before the summer, and the billings and proposals are done by Extension clerical staff. The municipalities especially appreciate the latter, since they find the forms from the state confusing and time-consuming.

In the summer of 1985, 10 supervising teachers and 37 SYEP teens reached 363 preschoolers at 10 rural and suburban sites. Each municipality contributes half of the direct cost and uses their Division for Youth eligibility for the rest. They also help obtain sites (sometimes schools are unavailable due to an austerity budget, location, etc.) and publicize the program.

This 11-year-old program demonstrates that partnerships can provide a vehicle to bring together resources and people to serve a previously neglected audience. Kid's Stuff provides relevant summer jobs for teens, preschool teachers (who otherwise might be collecting unemployment), and foster grandparents; a break for parents when other preschool programs aren't available; a chance for preschoolers to learn to work with their peers and adjust to school; a way to soften the transition to school for many kindergarteners; and a new audience for Extension to reach with home economics and 4-H programs.

Meanwhile, the municipalities and New York Stat Division for Youth get double value for their money and good public relations with their residents, and the Summer Youth Employment Program and Office of Aging reach a larger share of their audiences. Kid's Stuff is a prime example of progress through partnerships.


  1. Florence Cherry, Caring (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, Human Development and Family Study, 1981).