Friday, April 23, 1999
New preschool successful
The new preschool at the Carlisle Public School has been successful in its first year. Known as an "integrated" pre-school, it serves 15 Carlisle children, five of whom are special needs students who would otherwise be sent to programs out of town. The preschool allows these children to stay in Carlisle and to be included with other children at an early age. It provides the extra support they need.
The enthusiasm of pre-school teachers Hilary Claiborne and Michaela Hardimon was obvious as they described a typical preschool day to the Carlisle School Committee on April 6. All 15 children attend the pre-school, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 9 a.m. until noon. The five special needs children also meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to work more intensively with the teachers and specialists who address their individual needs.
Activities center around a theme which changes every few weeks; for example, this week the theme was transportation. Activities are adjusted so that all abilities in the classroom can be accommodated. Projects are designed to develop social skills, language and communication skills, visual-spatial and fine motor skills, and sharing. There are activities that also encourage exploration, discovery, creativity and imagination. There is circle time, a snack break and outdoor play which provide more opportunities for social interaction, exploration, and independence.
Speech and language specialist Cynthia Samuels explained that once a week, at circle time, she comes in to work with the whole class on language skills using the theme of the week as a focus. For example, with the transportation theme, she asked the children to drive toy cars around on a big floor puzzle of roads and buildings while following directions to drive from one place to another. This involved learning vocabulary, following directions, and understanding the concepts of "from" and "to," she explained.
Twice a week, when only the special needs students are at school, Samuels works on speech with them individually and in small groups. Debbie Frailey provides physical and occupational therapy to develop hand skills, fine motor control, eye-hand coordination and pre-writing skills. She demonstrated one of the activities that she uses that involved passing cards with clothespins. As the school committee members tried to pass the card around the table, they discovered that it was not easy, requiring fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and timing, as well as cooperation. Hardimon explained that she and Claiborne are present during the therapy sessions and this helps them carry the therapies over into the other school days.
The thoughtfully designed curriculum and enthusiasm of the teachers makes the preschool a special place for all of the students.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito