by Mike Knaak
While children celebrated the Week of the Young Child in April, teachers and staff at Oak Ridge Early Learning Center are getting ready to welcome the Sartell-St. Stephen school district’s littlest learners to programs beginning in the fall.
“We celebrate by getting kids ready for kindergarten, school and success in the future,” teacher Kim Larsen said. Events during the week included a Dress Your Best Day and crafting butterflies for a window display.
The Week of the Young Child national observance celebrated its 50th anniversary. Sartell’s young child programs are not quite that old, dating to the mid 1980s. About 130 students are enrolled in this year’s pre-kindergarten programs.
Parents can register now for next fall’s pre-kindergarten programs that include three- and five-day options with morning or afternoon sessions for 4-year-olds, two-day morning sessions for 3-year-olds and three-day afternoon sessions for 3- to 5-year-olds. Registration information for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten is at the district’s website: www.sartell.K12.mn.us/ORELC.
The preschool programs are designed to prepare children for kindergarten with a curriculum aligned to what children will find when they enter kindergarten. Classes move quickly with community building time, collaborative learning and cooperative play.
Hands-on activities include letter naming, sounds, rhyming, handwriting and fine-motor skills. Pre-kindergarten students are also introduced to number sequence and quantity.
Learning opportunities are part of everything that happens in the classroom – even routine health practices. For example, following a story session, teachers played a letter game with students so they slowly lined up for hand washing while practicing social distancing.
“We embed learning in everything by looking for moments of opportunity to engage and learn,” Larsen said.
Beyond the practical, Larsen said “we teach children how to treat others in school and live in society.” Larsen, a 22-year veteran in the classroom, says “our wiring is hard to unwind later in life. It’s easier to learn how to live when we are young.”