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Advisory committee monitors early childhood education

A group of teachers, administrators and city residents volunteer their time to plan for the very youngest students in Madison City Schools.

The Pre-Kindergarten Advisory Committee meets quarterly. Federal Programs Coordinator Jeana Ross facilitated their summer meeting on June 19.

For the Madison district, early childhood education is founded on “developmentally appropriate education, established on principles of child development and learning supported by research, that will produce lasting benefits for children, families and society,” Ross said.

Ross and other staff members reported on the “First Class” pre-kindergarten program associated with the Alabama Office of School Readiness. This organization confirms that Alabama children are prepared for school success and lifelong learning in voluntary, high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.

During June, English Language Learners (ELL) students are meeting at Mill Creek Elementary School to prepare for kindergarten. The Madison district has students who speak “53 home languages,” Ross said.

Jennifer Burgreen, who teaches at Rainbow Elementary School during the school year, said they adopted a “pond theme.” One class subject was the dandelion, with discussion of the plant, the ‘lion’ and color. Students visited the adjacent Mill Creek Greenway to examine dandelions first-hand. They also took a field trip to Huntsville Botanical Garden.

Music is the universal language, Ross said. The ELL classes start with music each day, followed by instruction to write their name, understand colors and handle school logistics (for example, to find the bathroom).

The Office of School Readiness requires 35 square feet of space for each student. As a result, the pre-K program in Madison is moving from Mill Creek to Rainbow. A grant for $82,0000 will cover expenses.

Classroom teachers designate several “areas” with the space, Burgreen said. Students alternate among areas for “home living” with a play kitchen, block building, math with puzzles and games, science with dinosaurs and snakes, reading with “tons of books” and the “floor” with artist easels.

“To continue the funding, our system must have good evaluations from state inspectors,” Ross said. “Our two classes received the highest evaluation possible.”

“We set high expectations for the students,” Ross said, “and the students live up to them.”

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