Prince Street preschool gets help from lions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Students at Prince Street Day Care learning center are blossoming under the watchful eye of lions.

The 13 students in the 3-year-old preschool class taught by Elaine Washington are using an early learning curriculum patterned after the PBS show “Between the Lions.”

The curriculum is broken down into five units, each lasting approximately six weeks.

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The program is made possible by a donation from the Natchez Rotary Club. The programs comes with teacher lesson plans, song and poem posters, books, activities and DVDs that are catered to preschool-aged learning.

Prince Street currently has one program.

The lesson plans incorporate songs, reading, art and group and individual activities that teach classroom skills like the alphabet, reading and numbers. They also focus on teaching social and behavioral skills including manners, sharing, taking turns and obeying classroom rules.

Washington said both skill sets are equally important for children who are just beginning to be introduced to classroom learning.

“They learn more and learn faster at this age than in other times of their lives,” Washington said. “If you can bring it to their level, make it fun and keep them involved, the students will learn.”

Washington said involvement is one of the key skills that makes the program successful because it allows children to gain confidence and develop their personalities.

“I always encourage the children to answer questions and participate,” she said. “Sometimes children are shy, but I make a point to have them answer questions they know because it is just as important for them to be included as it is for a kid who likes to raise their hand and answer questions.”

Each week the class lessons are based on themes like animals, people or activities. The reading books, songs and poems are all focused on those themes too.

The lessons are set up so the class reads the same book at least three times a week, each reading focuses on a new aspect, Washington said.

The first time the story is ready, the students are to just listen to the story. For the second reading, the teacher explains how the words and the pictures work together to make the story and on the third reading, the students answer questions about the story.

“We build each day on what we have learned previously,” Washington said. “And all the lessons work together from week to week. You can really see a difference from where the students started to where they are now.

“Parents will stop me out in town and say ‘I can’t believe how much they are learning’ or ‘They are really having fun.’”

The students are tested at the beginning of the program to judge things like letter recognition, comprehension and other preschool skills and are tested later to judge their progress. Washington said early education is pivotal in the later success of students because it gives them a jumpstart on learning.

“Our students will go on to other schools and will already know to stay in line, sit quietly, raise their hand and listen,” she said. “Having that base of skills, gives them a better chance to learn at a high level.”