9/13/2018 10:26:00 AM Preschool finds home for future on LTC campus
For preschool children play is about fun, and fun leads to imagination and learning. At Storybrooke Preschool and other programs young children are able to play, socializes and learn what will be expected of them as they prepare for their academic careers. And, giant bugs can be anything! (Tom Compton photos)
Building boxes out of plastic squares to make a house for dinosaurs may seem childish, but to a three-year-old it is fun, play, imagination and adventure, to teachers and aides at Storybrooke Preschool it is a way to evaluate motor skills and a child's ability to learn.
Storybrooke Preschool has a new home and bright future on the campus of Lincoln Trail College.
Last year the preschool had to find a new facility after its long-term home at Gingerbread House closed. At almost the last minute, Chad Brown of SENCO offered a temporary home for the 40 students by providing two classrooms and an outdoor play area at their Eaton Street facility. While the facilities were excellent, Storybrooke needed a long-term home where they could expand and grow.
Storybrooke is administered by the District 12 Regional Office of Education and funded through a Preschool For All education grant. Christie Butcher is the primary coordinator and Early Childhood Director.
The ROE 12 along with the Illinois State Board of Education offer Pre-K classrooms that benefit our youngest children and create an opportunity for school readiness. Teachers, with a bachelor's in education and certified in early childhood, guide children through stages of development using research based curriculum, and assessment tools, that align with the State Learning Standards. Each classroom offers space for 20 students with either a half day, 2.5 hour, program, or a full day, 6 hour, program, five days per week.
Butcher oversees 180 preschool students in the five counties located in the ROE 12 District, with 80 of those student located in Robinson. Those children are divided between the Get Set program at Washington Elementary School and Storybrooke. Similar programs are also located in the Hutsonville School District and at Kids Kingdom in Oblong.
The Get Set program is primarily for children in the Robinson Unit 2 School District, as there are usually more children than space allows at Washington the children are equitably divided and shared with Storybrooke. As Storybrooke is not limited to a specific school district, children from the Palestine and Lawrenceville area may also attend.
Butcher explained that because the grant program has become more competitive not all school districts that have previously had programs received funding this year.
With Storybrooke temporarily housed, Butcher began looking for a more permanent home. In January of this year Rod Harmon, Director of the Lincoln Trail College Foundation, inquired of Butcher about the status of the program. From there several conversations were held between the LTC Foundation, President of Lincoln Trail College Ryan Gower, CEO of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Terry Bruce, and the affiliated boards.
It was eventually decided that Storybrooke would find a new home on the North Campus of Lincoln Trail College in the old technology building. The LTC Foundation would contribute over $17,000 to the renovations and construction of a play ground area.
Gower called the move a win-win.
"I had two reasons for wanting the Storybrooke on LTC's campus. One I want the community to consider Lincoln Trail College as a hub with something for everyone," Gower said. "As we add additional layers, it becomes a more valuable resource."
Secondly it will provide a learning experience for LTC students. "It can be open to students for observations hours, teaching curriculum and speech language pathology," said Gower. "It is an opportunity for hands on learning."
Gower also noted the opportunity for community involvement for student athletes by becoming reading buddies with out having to travel off campus.
Gower said plans are being made to expand the facility with another classroom and additional play areas.
The importance of preschool education has long been documented by educators. Routines and activities are aligned with the Illinois Early Learning Developmental Standards, which lead to the Illinois standards set for your school system.
Play reduces stress and helps children grow emotionally. It should be joyful and provide an outlet for anxiety and stress. Play is more than meets the eye. It is simple and also complex. There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules, to name just a few. Researchers study play to evaluate how children learn, and how it effects cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.
As part of the program teachers are required to use documentation to show children's progress, like drawings, photos, and notes comparing what a child did at the beginning of the year to work done later in the year.
Teachers take play very seriously, they use play on purpose to ensure that each child makes progress toward very specific learning goals.
Preschoolers learn differently than school age children, play is essential to early learning. Well established research shows play is the main way children learn and develop ideas about the world. It helps them build the skills necessary for critical thinking, leadership and academic success in later years. It's how they learn to problem-solve and to feel good about their ability to learn.
Preschool programs like Storybrooke are offered free to parents of children who qualify. "We want to make an extra effort to service high risk children or children in need," said Butcher.
For more information, contact Christie Butcher, ROE 12 Early Childhood Director, 300 West Main St, suite 307 Robinson, IL 62454, 618-544-2719, or by email at Cbutcher@roe12.org.