Learning with Dina


“Principal Dina” is a 100-year-old puppet dinosaur who has been able to stay alive for so long because she follows five important rules: quiet hand up, eyes on the teacher, listening ears, hands to yourself, and walking feet. 

Incredible Years parent interacting with Dinosaur School studentsThese rules, which are always said out loud and shown visually, are taught in Dinosaur School, a program held by JUSD Parent Involvement & Community Outreach (P.I.C.O.). The 12-week program’s mission is for 3 to 5-year-old children to learn social-emotional and problem-solving skills. Another component of the program is a parent class called Incredible Years, which teaches positive parenting and how to strengthen parent-child relationships. Both classes are held simultaneously, next door to each other, for 2 hours every week.

Giovanna Luviano, Assistant Parent Engagement Coordinator and co-facilitator for the children’s class, teaches the children social-emotional skills and problem-solving, as well as how to follow the rules, recognize feelings, and regulate them. Ms. Luviano and the other facilitators are able to carry out these lessons with positive reinforcements and incentives. 

Dinosaur School student counting his coinsThe positive reinforcements at the school include the children earning plastic coins every time they follow the rules. At the end of the day, the student and facilitator count all the coins they earned that day. Depending on the amount, the student receives a sticker or a grand prize, such as a small wind-up car, fun eraser, or slap-on bracelet. The facilitator goes over their behavior to give them an explanation of why they are or are not being rewarded. 

“It is important for children to be reminded of rules, and to acknowledge their emotions… It then helps them in actual classroom settings when they get to preschool or kindergarten,” said Ms. Luviano about the structure of Dinosaur School. “The sooner we start helping them learn those skills, the better.”

Parents in the Incredible Years classMeanwhile, in Incredible Years, parents learn parenting skills from the other facilitators. Parents can share the challenges they have at home, learn different tips and strategies in order to overcome them, and find out how their child is doing next door. 

“My daughter has become more independent and more willing to do homework, color, and follow directions,” said Maria Aguilar, an Incredible Years parent, about her daughter, Remy, who is enrolled in the Dinosaur School. They have both learned useful skills and have applied them at home. Ms. Aguilar said she has been able to understand the importance of dedicating specific amounts of uninterrupted time to her daughter and having “directed play.”

Dinosaur School and Incredible Years have valuable lessons that every parent and child can benefit from. To learn more, visit the Parent & Early Child Development Center webpage​.


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