Guide to Effective Co op Planning

I wanted to share with you the co op plans I created over the holidays. I've included the entire document which means you will see information about the location and cost as well. I hope you find this helpful. Please comment with any questions.

General Overview:

10:00 - 12:00--All age activities—2-4 activities that all kids can rotate through
12:00 - 1:00--lunch and literacy
1:00 - 3:30--groups split up by age for more in depth activities and projects

Sample Day of Co-op:

10:00 - 12:00--soccer, obstacle course, beginner sewing on plates, painting nature scenes
12:00 - 1:00--Lunch and Literacy—We can read some books aloud, do some buddy reading with older and younger kids, do book reviews where kids share information about a book they’ve been reading, we (even adults) can just take some time to read silently. There are numerous options of things we could do here.
1:00 - 3:30--Ages 5 and under: Make mud pies, draw with sidewalk chalk, trace each other on big paper and color clothes and accessories.
Ages 6-10: Go bear tracking (discuss clues to look for, write down their findings), do charcoal drawings, play board games (scrabble, clue, apples to apples).
Ages 11+: Build bridges with popsicle sticks and see whose bridge holds the most pennies, do a squid dissection and write down or draw out the findings.

Our co-op members appreciate the value of mixed-age learning and agree that a group with a broad age range will be beneficial to everyone. Mixed-age activities do not mean that all kids of all ages will be forced to interact. It means that the activities during that period are things which kids of all ages may be interested in. Kids will naturally form their own connections that make sense to them. Sometimes that means they will only play with kids their own age. Sometimes a 13 year old will pair up with a 2 year old to play on the swings. Sometimes a few 10 year olds will get a group of 5/6 year olds and teach them soccer. Sometimes a 3 year old will ask a 9 year old to go on a walk together. We want to provide time where kids of various ages can interact with each other in a natural, comfortable way. We also understand the need for older kids to have their own space to go into more in-depth projects without worrying about little fingers messing up progress.
We have an open flow system in place. This means that we do not confine ourselves to certain time limits for activities. If the kids are all engaged and want to continue with something for a long time then that is ok even if that means we don’t get to all the activities that day. On the flip side, if they get through an activity quickly and are ready to move on to the next then we will, even if that means we have extra time at the end. The kids always find something to do with that extra time.
In our co op we do not teach at the kids. We facilitate learning opportunities and oftentimes find ourselves learning right along with them. All the parents find ways to naturally interact with the kids throughout co op. We also have many opportunities to interact with each other and have meaningful conversations. Our co-op is as much about the kids learning as it is all of us building relationships. We are more than a community. We are growing our family.
Last semester I was able to offer my home for free as our co-op location so the fee was $35 per family to cover all materials; we even had enough left over for an awesome pizza party with Cold Blooded Encounters. As of right now we are looking for another location which means our fee will increase some, however, we also plan to utilize the park for co-op when the weather permits so this will help keep the fee low. We are hopeful that our fee will be less than $150/family. Our fee includes the cost for all activities. When parents choose activities/projects to offer, they first try to use materials they already have at home, then ask other families, and are reimbursed if they end up needing to make a purchase. It is very important to us to keep the cost as low as possible which will allow us to do more things together.
We are planning to hold co-op once a week on Wednesdays and would like to add a field trip day every week and a third day every week to meet at a park for a couple hours. We all want to have plenty of time together to build relationships. Consistency with attendance is key.
Our co-op literally grew stronger by the week throughout our fall semester and our members are keen to maintain that momentum. We currently have infants through age 9 and we are excited about our expansion into the 8ish-teen age range and about who and what that might bring to our group. Right now we are looking for 4-6 families with kids ages 10 and up (younger siblings are welcome). I look forward to continuing our conversation with your family and by all means, reach out to me with questions at any time.

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