Fun and Play Increase Knowledge for Students at Sutter Park Preschool
Whether it is introducing a 3-year old to his/her first experience with school, working with nonverbal students to learn to communicate, or teaching kids who will take on kindergarten next fall how to properly hold an eating utensil, Sutter Park Preschool provides a wide range of experiences for its students.
By using everyday life and play with students, Sutter Park specializes in making sure kids are ready for the next step in their education.
“It really is about taking the children from wherever they are and figuring out how to help them access the skills and talents they bring,” Principal Karen Groff said, “and connect them to the academic stimulation that’s going on around them.”
Many students come to preschool with the need of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or they are given one upon arrival.
“It’s a very rich learning environment,” said Groff. “We have people on staff with different expertise. The staff here is so good with their knowledge of typical and atypical developments that they know what the next step is.”
Amazing learning is happening inside the walls of Sutter Park, including making use of advanced technology and simple items like flash cards to get children to begin to express themselves, whether it be verbally, or by pointing.
Teachers and speech therapists make use of SMART boards and an iPad-like device called GoTalk to get students to identify things such as a fire truck or the fireman that rides in the truck. GoTalk talks for the student after he/she pushes a corresponding picture.
“A lot of them know what they want to express but can’t get it out verbally,” Groff explained, “or in a quick amount of time. What we find is that students, once we get them going with the GoTalk, they also start to express verbally and their language explodes.”
Students also use play and their imaginations to increase knowledge. Whether it’s dressing up to put on a performance or heading to an imaginary kitchen table to enjoy a feast of plastic food, students are having fun, but it is also a learning experience.
“Even though kids (playing with fake food around a table) looks like play,” said Groff, “they’re sitting around a table. The teaching assistant there is so good that she’s monitoring what they do with the utensils and she will gently be correcting how they’re holding that spoon and fork within the play.”
“Clothing going on and off (during play-acting of knights and dragons) really helps with kids learning how to dress themselves. A lot of independent skills go along while they’re at play. It’s a very play-based environment, but with targets in mind. It’s a fascinating environment.”