Fun program prepares children for kindergarten

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Preschoolers show off new playhouse Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed On Friday, Johnny Appleseed (Johnnie Cox) visited SONbeam Preschool, which is located in the Cassville United Methodist Church. Children had the opportunity to sing songs with their visitor and ask him a variety of questions. They also showed their new playhouse to Mr. Appleseed. The playhouse was constructed by Butch Henningson with the help of several Cassville UMC members. In addition to serving as a playhouse, the structure is used to store outdoor toys. Pictured above, in the front row, from left, are: Gayle LeCompte, preschool assistant teacher; Wyatt Holmes; McKinley Runnels; Isabel Herrin; Johnny Appleseed; Miller Reid; Corbin Rhoads; and Megan Cox, preschool teacher. Second row: BreeAhna Paulsen; Kinlee Holman; Kyler Holman; Saige Holman; Fisher Moore; and Carlee Mitchell. Third row: Logan Marple; Evan Butler; Simon Gates; and Elizabeth Butler.

Parents looking for a fun preschool program designed to prepare children for kindergarten by building positive academic and social skills should consider SONbeam Preschool in Cassville. Enrollments are still being accepted for the program's Tuesday and Thursday session.

"We have small class sizes with a certified teacher," said Megan Cox, SONbeam Preschool teacher. "We also offer lots of family activities, which allow parents to get involved in the program."

SONbeam Preschool, a ministry of the Cassville United Methodist Church, offers weekly three-day and two-day preschool programs. Classes are held from 8 to 11 a.m. The program operates from fall through spring, following the Cassville R-4 School District's class schedule.

"We give children an introduction to pre-kindergarten skills," said Cox. "We offer a lot of small group activities and one-on-one time with the kids. They also get to learn about Jesus through this program."

SONbeam Preschoolers begin each morning with free play. Then, they have the opportunity to participate in "circle time," which offers a variety of activities.

"We do name and phone number recognition," said Cox. "We also learn about the calendar and counting, and we keep track of the number of days we have attended preschool. We do a skills review and review things such as the alphabet, colors and body parts. We also sing songs and have a story time.

"Then, we have dancing and movement activities," said Cox, "and sometimes we have a question of the day activity. We ask an open-ended question, and we often get some pretty interesting answers."

After "circle time," the children move to a table activity, which is often a type of craft or creative activity. Children have the opportunity to play with Play-doh and shaving cream, do coloring activities, write and create artwork.

"After our table activity, we have group time," said Cox. "That is when we work on one skill or unit. Right now we are reading books about apples. We also have a question time.

"We usually have a cooking activity with our units," said Cox. "This week, we made apple muffins for Johnny Appleseed."

After group time, children participate in a "centers" activity, which allows them to rotate among three different learning stations. The centers or stations focus on skills like counting, writing and memory building.

"Then we get ready for our snack and go outdoors to play," said Cox.

Even though SONbeam Preschool packs a large variety of activities into a three-hour session, all of the activities are designed to teach and challenge children. The program is also structured to keep children entertained and excited about learning.

"I want the kids to develop pre-kindergarten skills that will make them successful as they enter kindergarten," said Cox. "I also want them to develop a love of learning, school and books. This is the very first school experience for these children and many of their families.

Fun program Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed SONbeam Preschool students learn a variety of pre-kindergarten skills, including the alphabet and counting. Children also have the opportunity to be creative through art projects. On Friday, children colored and decorated apple trees as a part of their apple unit. Pictured above, is McKinley Runnels.

"I also try to teach the kids how to treat others, how to be a friend and how to be accepting of others," said Cox. "We have a lot of Bible lessons, so that the children learn the Bible stories and about God's love for each one of us."

SONbeam Preschool teaches children about charity, giving and helping others by hosting food drives for the Cassville Community Food Pantry and collecting gloves, hats, socks and other items for a mitten tree. Items placed on the tree are donated to Share Your Christmas and given to local children in need.

"We have a lot of seasonal activities," said Cox. "We host a Thanksgiving feast and Christmas activities. We also have a lot of parent activities."

SONbeam Preschool holds a family picnic at Roaring River State Park each fall and spring. The program also offers a winter fun night.

"We offer fall and spring parent-teacher conferences," said Cox. "We always encourage parents to be a part of the program. They are welcome to attend all our parties and events.

"Since we have small classes, the kids get to do a lot of special things," said Cox, "like visit a pumpkin patch, trick-or-treat around the square and go caroling at local long-term care facilities."

The program also holds an Easter egg hunt at the Cassville City Park and gives children who will be attending kindergarten the following year an opportunity to visit the Cassville Primary School in the spring.

"We offer a wonderful preschool curriculum in a Christian learning environment," said Linda Marple, SONbeam Preschool director. "We are so proud of our preschool. Our education committee, six years ago, decided that this was something we should offer the community."

SONbeam Preschool will host an open house event from 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3. Interested parents are invited to visit the preschool to meet the teachers and tour the facility.

Cox, who has a degree in early childhood education, is assisted by Gayle LeCompte at SONbeam Preschool.

For more information, call Marple at 847-4161.

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