By SHEILA OJENDYK
TAYLORS — A dream is finally coming true at Prince of Peace Church. After several years of planning and a lot of hard work, the Child Development Center opened its doors to the first preschoolers on Tuesday, Sept. 7. The idea and groundwork for the Child Development Center came from parishioner Karen Fourspring. Director Ann Smith said, “This would never have come to fruition without Karen.”
The Child Development Center is a preschool by plan and not a daycare center. There is a formal curriculum for children between the ages of 1 and 4. The center is open three half days a week, but most groups only go two days a week.
Smith explained that early childhood education has changed over the last generation because too many American school children have fallen behind their peers in other countries. Numerous studies have demonstrated that children have their greatest capacity for learning in their first five years of life. Skills an earlier generation learned in first grade are now standard curriculum for children in kindergarten, so the focus of early childhood education is to prepare children for the structured world of a classroom. Social skills are part of a curriculum that also includes introduction to reading and mathematics as well as physical education.
Those who remember when kindergarten was considered preparation for first grade may wonder what a 1-year-old child can be taught in preschool. One-year-olds can already understand simple commands, so they are taught basic concepts such as in or out and up or down. Jumping and climbing help the youngest children develop their gross motor skills, and learning how to pick up small objects with thumbs and fingers hones their fine motor skills.
Two-year-olds advance to expanded concepts and more sophisticated gross and fine motor skills such as throwing a ball and coloring simple shapes. In addition, teachers introduce them to the alphabet.
Three-year-olds learn how to group concepts. Many classes have themes. The first theme this year is “dive into preschool,” and some of their activities are centered around topics related to water. Teachers also start exposing the 3-year-olds to music.
Four-year-olds begin using what they’ve learned in their earlier years and learn how to count and sort items. Their teachers will encourage them to begin writing later in the school year.
Smith is planning occasional field trips for the older preschoolers that relate to what they’re learning in school.
Smith describes her faculty as “absolutely fabulous.” Each class is staffed by a teacher and a teaching assistant, and Smith says all are highly qualified and dedicated to what they are doing. The majority of preschoolers at the Child Development Center are Catholic, but there are several students from non-Catholic families who heard about the program by word of mouth. There are still a few openings for three-year-olds, but the other classes are full.