A free preschool learning program for children 3 and 4 years old and their parents or guardians got underway Jan. 25 at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. The cooperative class is sponsored by the Children’s Home Society of Washington-Key Peninsula Family Resource Center.
“The goal is for the children to be fully prepared for kindergarten,” said Debby Fisher, CHS director of cooperative learning programs and the class teacher.
“We want them to know their ABCs, start to begin to read, know their shapes and develop some socialization skills,” Fisher said.
Fisher operated a day care that included some preschool education and has been in social work for seven years. She also trains students for public speaking in the CHS Little Toaster programs at Minter Creek and Evergreen elementary schools.
“This new class is a cooperative program where we use parents as the first teachers,” said Jud Morris, executive director of CHS. “We’re getting the parents into the idea that their child’s lifelong learning is something they have to be involved with.”
The class is paid for by a grant to CHS from the United Way of Pierce County. “It’s been funded for one year with two yearlong renewals, so it’s a three-year program,” Morris said. “There are programs at Vaughn and at Evergreen (elementary schools) but they are both maxed out. There are lots of fee-based preschools in the school district, but there are very few free ones and the demand is much greater than the supply.”
The class meets Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., year-round. The hour goes by fast with a variety of activities focused on a simple thing each week, like tracing, coloring and reading about a single letter in the alphabet.
“Circle things that start with B,” Fisher said to a recent class. Children and their parents or guardians leaned over a preschool workbook with pictures of butterflies and bunnies to copy and color. Then came story time, all about bunnies and finding the letter B on the page, followed by a little singing and dancing “to get the wiggles out,” Fisher said. The class ended with a project: children and adults working together to make a bunny-face shaker out of paper plates and popcorn kernels, followed by another song to try them out.
“Every week, I give the parents one thing to learn,” Fisher said. “I know it’s difficult to sit down and do a lesson, but you can count steps from the car to the grocery store and ask what color different foods are. Those teachable moments are huge.”
The class has a maximum of 10 students and 10 adults. “It’s a good cross-section of what goes on in today’s world,” Morris said. “You have new parents, not new parents and grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. I don’t think the people that come to our class are a different cross-section than any other you’d see anywhere on the Key.
“This isn’t necessarily true of the parents we have, but there are parents who are very uncomfortable about being involved in education or school because of their own experiences as a child,” Morris said. “By getting them involved in this very safe environment no matter what their backgrounds, we’re getting these parents up to speed so they feel they are capable and want to be involved in their child’s education. The reality is, as a child progresses educationally, if the parents aren’t involved, more likely than not the kid will fall behind.”
For more information or to register for the class, call CHS at 884-5433.