Press enter after choosing selection

It Isn't Just Fun And Games For City's Pre-schoolers

It Isn't Just Fun And Games For City's Pre-schoolers image
Parent Issue
Copyright Protected
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
OCR Text

Games, songs, cookies and milk. For many children, this is the order of the day at their pre-schools. But not in Ann Arbor. While the Ann Arbor Public Schools' Pre-School Program offers the children many games and fun-filled aetivities, there is a broader goal in mind: fostering the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of the youngsters. Accordingly, a carefully planned program which focuses on both classroom activities and home instruction is provided for the 64 four-year-olds who particípate in the project. Ann Arbor's pre-school program, which draws its children mainly from the Mack, Jones and Bach School attendance areas, is financed by the Board of Education and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title I (a federal grant). Eight teachers lend their talents to the program, which is presently in its third year of operation. The pre-school classes are held at two schools - Jones and Mack- both mornings and afternoons from September to June. Each child attends either a morning or afternoon session. Evelyn Moore, director of compensatory programs for the public schools, directs the Jones School pre-school program and co-ordinates the one at Mack. Probably the most interesting aspect of Ann Arbor's 'tl Ty i r w school activities is the introduction of a new language program, developed by two experts from the University of Illinois. Similar in goals to the federal government's "H e a d Start" program, which prepares three and four-year-olds for school, the modified Bereiter - Engelmann project helps children verbally express themselves more clearly and effectively. Termed a unique curriculum by Miss Moore, it attempts to increase the language skills of the children by means of repetition and drill. Gradually, the children learn to reason inductively and deductively, and to move from concrete to abstract and symbolic concepts. How is the language program unique? In the fact that, at Jones School at least, it is quite rigidly structured. (According to Miss Moore, a more informal program is followed at Mack). Specific lesson plans for the teachers are required - quite a different agenda from most pre-school programs. The Bereiter - Engelhiann program is taught- by a direct teaching method - to small groups of children for 20 to 25 minutes per day. The work session is a dynamic one, and demands the constant participation of the children, who learn their lessons with the aid of toys, dramatic plays, experiments and- most importantly- the teacher. The youngsters "respond and seem to have so much f un" with the language program, Miss Moore commented. "It's a fun - type of program for the children, but also very productive." More importantly, she stressed, the children are aware they are working to improve their language skills, not just playing. "Th is teaches them to find value in work," Miss Moore said. Successful completion of the language program will also - hopefully- help the children academically in the years to . come. The development of language is "crucial" in the educational process of a child, in Miss Moore's words. Henee, the interest among pre-school educators in the language program. Modifications of the Bereiter-Engelmann program are being used throughout the country and in other Michigan school districts as well, according to Miss Moore. Another integral part of Ann Arbor's pre-school program is the Home Visit schedule. Largely tutorial in nature, home visits are made by the children's teachers at least twice a month. On these visits, the teacher takes educational equipment - such as books, blocks, puzzles and art materials - and encourages parents and brothers and sisters to aid the pre-school child in his activities. Each child is tutored individually by the teacher - the same teacher who teaches the fouiyear-old in class. An orientation program for the parents, informing them about the home visits and the classroom program, is held at the beginning of the school year and monthly thereafter. Besides the language and home visit programs, the preschool program also offers the services of a social worker, who counsels the staff and relays information to parents on various social service agency aids available. Ann Arbor's pre-school staff is not only interested in "cognitive aspects," however, as Miss Moore puts it. A wide variety of games and "fun" activities are planned for the children each day- all designed to help thn grow socially, intellectually and emotionally. Outdoor ventures also are encouraged during the warmer months. Moreover, regular medical and dental checkups are provided for the children. Recently, for example, physical examinations and normal preventive injections were given to about 20 of the youngsters at the University of Michigan's "Well Baby Clinic." The remainder of the children will receive their examinations soon. Miss Moore and her staff hope to continue the improvement of Ann Arbor's preschool program, and to expand it. But additional funds and space to expand are not presently available. Nevertheless, the staff is encouraged by the progress of the program since its inception three years ago. In the words of Miss Moore, "I think the community realizes the importance of pre-school programs."