Goshen Community Schools’ preschool program, housed at Prairie View Elementary, offers an integrated, hybrid approach to preparing children for kindergarten and further learning.
Now in its second year, the preschool is open to students eligible for free or reduced lunch living within Goshen Community Schools’ boundaries who are four years old by August, but not eligible for kindergarten. Mary Kay Longacre, GCS’ director of grants and assessments, said that the idea for a preschool came out of wanting to cut down the amount of tutoring needed to help students catch up in classes by better preparing children before they even start kindergarten.
“We want to provide the students who are most at risk of failure the opportunity to be the most promising for success in kindergarten,” Longacre said.
Natalie Potter, one of the two preschool teachers for the program, noted that because of meal and transition time, each preschool section has 150 minutes of formal instructional time during the 210-minute preschool time. Potter said, though, that she and the other preschool teacher, Sheri Davidhizar, work to make every minute of their time with the four-year-olds an opportunity for learning.
“Our goal is for these kids to be ready to go to kindergarten–not just to survive, but to succeed,” Potter said.
Each preschool section has 17 students for a total of 68 preschoolers enrolled. Each teacher has one section of students in the morning and another group in the afternoon. The curriculum utilizes a variety of programs, including Music Together, a music and movement program, Minds in Motion, a program that has students integrate auditory and visual learning with motor skills, and a number of other innovative programs, Longacre said.
Davidhizar emphasized that she tries to teach one idea in multiple ways to help students learn. When learning the letter “P,” for example, she had students create a penguin made out of paper that integrated the shape of a “P” into it, popped popcorn to talk about the sound “P” makes and had students toss a toy penguin in a large parachute, among other activities, to work at getting the students to remember not only what a “P” looks like, but how it sounds and some words that start with it.
Potter and Davidhizar both focus on teaching their students letter and number recognition, counting and the sounds letters make, but also work on how to act in a school setting. That includes how to walk quietly in the hallway, how raise their hands with questions or comments and how to engage active listening skills.
Starting with last year’s inaugural class, Longacre has been tracking students’ progress through the class and how they continue to do through school.