Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, a pre-kindergarten program has launched as an educational opportunity both for three-to-five year olds looking forward to kindergarten, and high school students seeking to develop skills in working with children.
High schoolers, grades ten through twelve, will be working closely with approximately twelve preschoolers over the course of the 2013-2014 school year. “It’s not a daycare,” said an emphatic Mrs. Burt. “This a preschool program, with the design to prepare these young kids to enter kindergarten.” The high school students will be designing and implementing curriculum to that end, mentored and supervised by Mrs. Burt and certified aide Kelly Rose Brown.
The design for the program will be for the eighteen high schoolers to rotate in three groups of six. Two days will be spent working one-on-one with the preschool children, with the third day being used to plan instruction and receive guidance from Mrs. Burt. In this way, the students will have a constant system of goalsetting and evaluation, and the opportunity to build relationships with all twelve of the young children in the program.
Mrs. Burt has developed a curriculum for the preschool based on the readiness checklist in place to prepare the children to enter kindergarten. All preschoolers, regardless of age, will be presented the same curriculum, and the one-on-one time each child will have with the high school mentors will see that each child’s individual needs and strengths are addressed.
The preschool is located in the downstairs north wing of the high school, with facilities for art and family/consumer science. The location features a kitchen, where fresh snacks will be prepared for the children, and plenty of space for them to learn and play safely. There are spaces for art instruction, naps, and indoor play structures, as required by a ten-page list of state-required facilities and equipment. “There will be structures to climb, tubes to crawl through, and hand-eye coordination toys,” said Burt. A play yard has also been constructed outside the north wing of the school, complete with a playground structure.
As is the case with other courses such as agriscience and auto care, three sequential courses will be offered to high schoolers participating in the preschool. Appropriate care is being taken in selecting the students to take part in these classes. The process begins with an application and a close review of the student’s disciplinary record. “If they have any disciplinary issues, or less than 90 percent attendance, we can’t use them, ” says Mrs. Burt. “We’re working with small children, and we need students we can count on.” Teacher recommendations, grade average, and willingness to read aloud to children are also part of the pre-screening checklist.
The preschoolers themselves must be between the ages of three and five, and fully potty trained, in order to be admitted to the program. Children of school employees will be given first option, after which all open spaces in the preschool will be filled by a random drawing from eligible applicants. Preschoolers will be charged a modest tuition for their participation, which along with the high schoolers’ course fees will help to fund the preschool’s ongoing needs.