Dr. Seuss rugs and lady bugs. Colorful blocks and kidney-shaped tables. All adorn the classrooms that will greet 12-month-olds to 3-year-olds attending Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic School’s new “Little Lambs Early Childhood” program.
“We want it to be warm and welcoming, and we want the children to come in and feel safe,” said Rhonda Meyer, assistant principal.
While Resurrection has had a program for 3-year-olds, this is the first year that children aged 12 months to 2 years old are being accepted at the school. The early childhood program occupies two of the eight classrooms in a newly constructed elevated building that also houses the gym.
The Little Lambs program will encourage students to socialize and collaborate as they play in a structured environment. One room is filled with active workstations for learning letters, numbers, art and music, and the other has cribs, computers and more stations. Each side has a small, library, Meyer said.
Wide age range
Since the program covers a diverse age range, the day will be structured with circle time in the early morning as the preschool prays, recites the Pledge of Allegiance and explores birthdays, important days, letters and the weather together, Meyer said. From there, the different ages will be separated into smaller groups for age-appropriate learning.
“Lots of learning will be going on,” she said.
Meyer said early childhood students will delve deeper into subject matter just as their counterparts do in upper grades as part of the Common Core standards. For example, instead of just memorizing numbers and letters, students will have more sensory learning with manipulatives, being able to learn letters by writing, feeling and even tasting. Learning also will be more child-directed with teachers asking questions to encourage students to collaborate and problem solve.
“It’s a more narrow focus for mastery of a set of skills,” Meyer said. “They are still having fun and exploring. As educators, we are grabbing their attention early and keeping it.”
Spanish will be taught
The younger students also will be exposed to Spanish and work with the physical education teachers on hand-eye coordination and fine and gross motor skills. The little ones have their own playground area. They will interact with older students in schoolwide trick-or-treating, Christmas and Thanksgiving events, Mardi Gras parade, school pep rallies and Mass.
“The students are part of the student body and our school community,” Meyer said.
Grow with neighborhood
Shortly after Meyer and school principal Vickie Helmstetter joined the staff at Resurrection 1 1/2 years ago, they were discussing the early childhood program with then pastor Father MichaelJoseph Nguyen.
“He said this area is really rebuilding and he felt strongly about the parents having more educational opportunities for their younger children – other than daycare – in a nurturing, Catholic environment,” Meyer said. “Father MichaelJoseph was very supportive of the program.” They soldiered on to make it happen even after his untimely death in January.
Because the new building was under construction as they devised Little Lambs, the duo was able to make changes suitable for a preschool program.
“Middle school was supposed to go here, but this was the most logical, safe place for Little Lambs,” Meyer said. The plumbing was reworked, and the classrooms were reconfigured to accommodate washers and dryers, sinks, baby cribs with sneeze-guards, lockers and electrical needs required for state certification and safety.
Jeannette Brown, who has 20 years of experience in early childhood, and Unique Robinson, who has worked in early childhood at Resurrection, are the early childhood teachers. They have CPR and first-aid training and will participate in professional development just as other faculty members do, Meyer said.
“In our program, the teachers will be able to introduce basic skills to the children,” Meyer said. “Socialization is a huge part of the curriculum. The curriculum will be at a different pace than prekindergarten 4 and kindergarten, but it will follow the same schedule of what needs to be learned. Our teachers work together as a team, and the students will be ready for the next level.”
Resurrection: A hidden gem
Meyer said this preschool program would strengthen the already-strong Resurrection elementary school that boasts approximately 600 students. The campus is wireless and has been restored since the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Meyer called the school a “hidden gem” with great resources, a revived PTA and an athletic program.
“We are excited,” Meyer said of the program. “We want families to know we’re here and we are rebuilt. We want them to come and let us educate their kids.”
Resurrection will dedicate its new building in memory of Father MichaelJoseph Nguyen on Sept. 16 with a Mass and blessing with Archbishop Gregory Aymond. For details on the Little Lambs Early Childhood Program at Resurrection, call 243-2257.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.