Southern Utah University’s efforts under its "Learning Lives Forever" motto begin much earlier than may be expected of a university, educating Cedar City's very youngest students through the SUU Preschool, a longstanding community favorite for early childhood education. And with space still available for the upcoming 2013-14 school year, it's not too late for locals to take advantage of the unique experience children receive when the University's College of Education and Human Development spearheads their preschooler's education.
After a highly successful first year in the preschool's new home at North Elementary, the SUU partnership STEAM school, administrators of the SUU Preschool are looking forward to and aiming for an even better second year, beginning this fall. In addition to its still pristine new facilities, the SUU Preschool has refined its revamped curriculum, further adopting a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) focus in their lessons, a revolutionary teaching method for preschools.
"Children come alive when they are playing and interacting with one another, so that is what we do in every lesson of every subject matter,” explained preschool director Karen Houser of the preschool's heavy use of games, songs, dances, art projects and activities to help teach children everything from numbers, letters, shapes and colors to science. Houser said the curriculum follows all state and national guidelines, but that the more interactive approach is proving very successful among the school's young tutelage.
And it isn’t just children who benefit from its revolutionary curriculum; SUU students likely learn even more than their Pre-K charges. The University's early education students create lesson plans, lead activities and learn how to manage a classroom through a semester of in-service training at the preschool.
This hands-on learning experience is very beneficial to SUU's education students, explained Kelly Hofeling, a senior elementary education major from Anaheim, Calif., who taught at the preschool through the end of the school year.
“When you just listen to lectures about theory you never learn if you’re in the right field," Hofeling explained of the impact her teaching experience had on her future. "Teaching at the SUU Preschool gave me the confidence that I chose the right career path, and I felt much more prepared for graduation.”
Though preschool in general conjures images of fun and games, Houser ensures that there is a reason behind each game, for both the children and their collegiate teachers.
“Our preschoolers are learning to really enjoy learning and that all subjects are fun and exciting. And our education students are learning how to integrate performing and visual arts into a math or a literacy lesson, something that is typically lacking in most classrooms but is essential,” said Houser. “This approach makes each lesson that much more potent for both age groups.”
According to Houser, children who do not attend preschool tend to lag behind their peers who do, and this difference is evident when children enter kindergarten.
“It’s not just playtime for these children. They learn the fundamentals and become emotionally prepared for kindergarten. Even just knowing how to sit still, to form a line, to make new friends and to share are all important skills for success in the classroom that are taught early on in preschool.”
In addition to staffing the classroom with six college students daily, the SUU Preschool touts two full-time licensed teachers, giving its young students an impressive 6:1 student to teacher ratio and providing all children the chance to reach their highest potential in an enriched age appropriate environment.
In addition to the fundamental lessons taught in preschool, the SUU Preschool's students take frequent field trips that relate to the current subject matter, and are visited by SUU athletes and Thor the Thunderbird. Additionally, as an added benefit of its new location in North Elementary, SUU's preschoolers interact daily with older school children and have access to theatre, arts and music teachers, as well as the school's library.
While the morning session for the upcoming school year is filled to capacity, space is still open for the afternoon session, which will run Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons, to accommodate the Iron County School District's early out Wednesdays. The SUU Preschool is open to all children who will be four years old by September 1, 2013. Registration is open on a first come, first serve basis, and spots tend to fill quickly.
Visit suu.edu/ed/preschool to learn more.