New pre-school program opens at Whistler Children’s Centre 

Whistler Children’s Centre is launching a new pre-school program next month.

It will offer classes for tiny tykes from 18 months to three-years-old and classes for four-year-olds. The program will run from Jan. 6 or 7 to the end of June.

"The motivation for the junior program was really community driven," said Julia Black, director of the centre.

"Right now most programs for this age group require parents or care-givers to remain with their children. This will be an opportunity for those families to really have some time off to themselves and also know that their children are in a good quality early childhood program."

The program for the 18-month to three-year-olds will run Tuesdays and Thursdays form 9 a.m. until noon at Spring Creek

Only four kids up to aged 30 months can register. Eight kids aged 30 to 36 months will fill out the class, which will be taught by Sarah Hampton and Sue Walker.

It is likely, said Black, that the class will also split up to take part in activities aimed at the different developmental levels.

"At this age they are still focusing on early language, social skills and problem solving particularly three-year-olds," said Black.

"They are developing that social structure of appropriate play and language and communication."

It will cost $150 per month. If parents sign up before Jan. 15 a 20 per cent discount will be offered for the first three months.

The class for the four-year-olds will run Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sixteen students can register and they will be led by teacher Claudine LeJune and an assistant teacher who has yet to be chosen.

It will cost $180 a month. But the 20 per cent discount on the first three months will be in effect if parents sign up before Jan. 15.

"It will be set up like a typical early childhood program where children come in and depending on whether it is theme based or project based there will be activities around the room," said Black.

"The children will be exposed to science, other projects, and art that the children have initiated and during that time the teachers will go around and really foster language, observations skills and problem solving."

For the morning group they will then have a snack time and then some sort of structured activity such as a circle time or maybe a project at a table.

"It will be more teacher driven but based on what the children’s interests are and there will be outdoor play too. It may be that they go on a walk and explore something that is directly related to a project they are working on.

"And there is definitely some kindergarten readiness."

The program is different from the daycare currently offered by the Children’s Centre in that it aims to educate and entertain the kids in a finite time each session.

"It is different in that it is not the full day daycare," said Black.

"It is definitely faster paced. With daycare we have the flexibility of stretching things out. What we don’t cover in the morning will be covered in the afternoon.

"We do still in daycare do a lot of early learning, it is just faster paced in pre- school."

Black said the program would incorporate the findings of recent research on brain development and what is known about early childhood development.

"They are saying that early childhood experience has a decisive impact on the architecture of the brain, and that children by the age of three have double the activity in their brain compared to an adult," said Black.

"That suggests that early childhood experiences are really important."

So what we are hoping to do is combine what we know about research developments with what we also know about the value of learning through play, and providing science to create a well rounded early childhood program which will be family driven."

Black wants parents to get in touch with her and let the centre know what type of program they are looking for.

"What makes this program unique is that we really want to incorporate family values, what the family experiences are, and where (care-givers) want their children to be in the future.

"We will provide the basic structure incorporating what we know about early childhood brain development… but the family also has a role to play."

Research has shown that brain development is non-linear, said Black. There are prime times to acquire different kinds of knowledge and skills and by the time children reach the age of three they are biologically primed for learning.

"Early childhood experiences can have such a huge impact on the types of adults that they become and the type of life-long learning drive that they have," said Black who is very excited about getting this type of program up and running.

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