New preschool opens its doors

Thursday, August 31, 2006

God gets all the credit for the newly created SONbeam Preschool at the Cassville United Methodist Church.

Linda Marple, who serves as director of the new preschool, said everything just came together when the church's education committee began researching different ways to reach out to the community.

"Spiritually, in hindsight, we have to attribute the preschool to God," said Marple. "It wasn't something that was on our agenda. It just came up spontaneously and we felt like it was a great mission for the church. And then everybody got on board and it all came together. It was an act of God."

One of the main goals of the preschool is to share the message of God's love with children and their families.

SONbeam Preschool also provides youngsters, age 3 to 5, with an outstanding educational experience.

"Our goal is to get our students developmentally ready for kindergarten both socially and academically," said Megan Cox, who serves as the preschool's certified teacher.

According to Cox, the preschool utilizes a curriculum that is loosely based on the Creative Curriculum and Missouri Pre-Kindergarten Standards.

SONbeam offers two different sessions. Parents can choose to send their child on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The preschool sessions last from 8 to 11 a.m.

A typical day at the preschool begins with check in and free play and then students gather together for what Cox calls "Circle Time." During this segment, students go over the calendar to learn days of the week and months of the year and also focus on counting and other basic skills.

From there, students enjoy a table activity followed by a large group lesson. Centers have also been set up in the preschool room, and students move from table to table to do various small group activities. Recess and snack time is also part of the day.

Preschoolers are enjoying the new fenced playground area, which was one of the investments made by church member to get the new program up and running.

In addition to the daily schedule, preschoolers will enjoy field trips and activities that involve their families.

Next week, the school will celebrate Grandparent's Day by inviting grandparents to the school for a special celebration. There is also a visit planned to The Pumpkin Patch and several holiday-themed activities such as a Thanksgiving Celebration, Christmas Party and Easter Celebration.

Students will be taught a Bible story once a week, and John Gregory, the church's minister, will provide a lesson for the students at least once a month.

SONbeam Preschool is licensed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service's Bureau of Child Care. This process was a huge undertaking and assures parents that the facility is safe and in tip-top shape, Marple said.

The staff at the preschool is also first rate. Marple has 20 years of service as parent educator and director of Cassville's Parents As Teachers program. She has a degree in child development and spent eight years teaching early childhood in Arkansas before she joined the Cassville faculty.

Cox is a certified early childhood teacher. She taught prekindergarten at Cassville for two years before deciding to teach at the preschool. She is assisted by Gayle LeCompte, who has a love for children and has been an active parent volunteer for many years.

Lindy Gibson has also helped spearhead the new preschool project as chairperson of the church's preschool committee. She is a retired Cassville School administrator and teacher who most recently was in charge of Title 1 preschool programs at the R-IV District.

"This group is dedicated to our vision of this being a high quality Christian learning environment for preschool children," said Gregory. "We believe that God has been at work in our plans for this preschool."

Currently, there are 21 students enrolled in SONbeam Preschool. According to Marple, students can still be enrolled and there are several openings in each session.

For more information about the new preschool, call 847-6427.

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