BY JOHN NUGENT
The Mineola pre-kindergarten program, which expanded to a full-day curriculum in the 2019-20 school year, has 177 children enrolled, according to district officials.
Hampton Street School Principal Leigh Shaw, instructional leader Samantha Sanchez and dual language teacher Masiel Gomez presented an update on the program at the Board of Education meeting last Thursday.
“Typically the goal of pre-K is to get the students school-ready,” Shaw said. However, “in Mineola students are learners,” she said, emphasizing that 90% of the human brain develops between birth and age 5. Shaw stressed that the mission in Mineola is to cultivate a “love of learning” from the earliest stages of the school experience.
By adding three hours to the day, several new activities are now included that will enable pre-K learners to experience more interaction with their peers.
Emphasizing that 3- and 4-year-olds are learners, Sanchez said that pre-K children develop their skills in language, vocabulary and social interaction based on their experiences.
Sanchez cited a teacher testimonial that said “Pre-K is an opportunity to learn about life outside of home.” “Three- and 4-year-olds learn through experience,” she said.
The addition of play-based literacy centers, outdoor play and discovery, small group activities, lunch/recess and tabletop activities into the daily routine has enriched the learning experience in the formerly half-day program.
A dual language pre-K option was introduced this year. The 20 children currently enrolled in that program spend part of their day learning words, numbers and songs in Spanish.
Gomez presented videos of the children singing and counting in Spanish.
“The most important part of pre-K is that it’s fun and it’s exciting and a place to come and learn and play and grow,” said Shaw.
“It took a long time to get to this spot, but we’re so happy that we’re here,” said district Superintendent Michael Nagler.
He said that significantly improved achievement data for kindergarten and later grades reflect the foundation established in the pre-K experience.
The teachers have observed that the students in first grade and above are better prepared, he said. “They are not spending time re-teaching concepts that the children either forgot or never learned,” he said.