In Jurupa Unified, the preschool experience can be foundational for students as they begin their educational journeys. “Preschool [provides] our youngest learners with an opportunity to be exposed to the classroom environment,” shared Katrina Brooks, Coordinator for Early Childhood Education. “That way they are prepared for either entry into transitional kindergarten or kindergarten.”
With instruction and guidance from teachers, preschool students learn early educational concepts, how to socialize and share materials, and how to follow a routine. They practice problem-solving and processing emotions in a healthy way. “It's amazing from day one to the end of the year [how much they grow],” said Iris McClatchy, Head Start teacher at Glen Avon Elementary.
JUSD’s Pre-K School Readiness Center supports the district’s Head Start and preschool programs. Currently, there are ten Head Start classrooms and 12 preschool classrooms. “We provide services to children that are three and four years old,” shared Ms. Brooks. “Those services are provided at the Pre-K School Readiness Center as well as at different elementary campuses throughout the district.”
Recently, new furniture has helped classrooms better meet students' educational needs. “It really supports our curriculum,” said Debi Young, preschool teacher at Sunnyslope Elementary.
Upgrades to the home area of the classroom are especially popular with students, with well-crafted furniture and colorful accessories making pretend play seem more real. Students can “stock” the refrigerator, “cook” on the stovetop, “set the table" for a family meal, and “load” laundry into the washer and dryer. “We're getting to introduce so many more materials in a better way,” shared Ms. Young. “We’re able to create a more [home-like] environment. We can put things in there…that they see in their home.”
Even better, the furniture and related materials are child-size, making them appropriately accessible for tiny learners. “That's one thing that's working for our program,” said Ms. McClatchy. “Honestly, the local hangout is the home living area.”
Beyond the home area, new cubbies provide more space for jackets, water bottles, and other personal items brought from home. Updated storage makes organization and clean-up easier. Activity stations encourage creativity and introduce exciting learning challenges. In Glen Avon’s classroom, a new projector helps Ms. McClatchy expand her lessons with the aid of technology.
“The children blossom when they come in,” said Ms. McClatchy. “They’re learning to make friends. They’re following routines. They’re exploring.”
From the outside, preschool may appear as little more than playtime. But teachers like Ms. McClatchy and Ms. Young know that through social play, students learn about themselves and their physical abilities; about working with others; and what it means to inhabit a school environment. “Parents are the first teachers. Families are the first teachers. But we lay the foundation,” said Ms. Young. “We want to provide a really firm and whole cement slab with no cracks. Then as they [grow] up, they’re able to build a house and have a very sturdy house.”
For more information about JUSD preschool, please visit the Pre-K School Readiness Center