News: ASYMCA to launch new preschool classes in 2014
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Next year preschoolers at the Kaneohe Bay branch of the Armed Services YMCA will become turtles or owls.
In 2014, the K-Bay branch will join other ASYMCA branches on Oahu in offering more specialized classes for its Parent Participation Preschool program. The new tracks are named after Hawaiian animals, the pueo, or native owl, and honu, or turtle.
“The need is going to be greater for preschool,” said Carol Wear, the director of operations for the Hawaii chapter of ASYMCA and headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “Children won’t be in junior kindergarten because it won’t be offered in public schools next year. They’ll need something challenging, otherwise they’ll get bored.”
The new classes will have different activities encouraging children to develop their academic and physical skills before entering kindergarten. Previously the program only had one level of learning, but K-Bay will feature two sections next year.
Preschoolers will be in the track best matching their development level and can advance on to more challenging sections. Children of any age can enroll in the classes, and the only requirements are based on academic and personal skill levels.
“Children are all different and what we do look for is where their basic skills are,” said Autumn Biegel, director of the Kaneohe Bay branch of the ASYMCA. “If they are placed in honu, they need to know and recognize the alphabet, meaningfully count numbers, know shapes and colors and be ready to start writing.”
The new honu track will also be twice a week in three-hour sessions, an hour longer than the current pueo level offered at the K-Bay branch. The new level also asks parents or caregivers to spend time in the classroom up to twice a month, to help prepare preschoolers for working independently in kindergarten. In pueo, parents sit in class with the children as they learn.
“We have circle time, sing songs, and practice name and letter recognition,” said Savannah Gardiner, the pueo level preschool teacher for the ASYMCA’s K-Bay branch. “We’ll look at specific letters during class. We’ll cover basic short words, which can be three or four letters. In honu, the children will learn longer words. (Pueo class)’s will also have a simple craft.”
Gardiner said because there are no age requirements in the new sections, her preschoolers can easily progress to another level when they are ready and if there is an opening. One of her current pueo students, who has been in the program for the last year, will progress to honu once the section launches in 2014. Class sizes for honu are also small, featuring 10 students. Children can receive individualized attention, with one teacher to five students.
Biegel and Wear said the new sections are organized to help children as they develop at their own pace.
They said starting off in pueo section could be beneficial for both parents and children, helping parents see their child’s strengths and ease anxieties about their development.
“The program is designed to teach parents and children,” Biegel said. “We meet up only a couple hours a week, but parents can bring these ideas home and work on them with their children throughout the week.”
A third track, named Naia or dolphin, will be available next year at the Wheeler branch of the ASYMCA and is already in session at JBPHH. Preschoolers in Naia are already reading, able to sit down to focus during a class and are otherwise ready for kindergarten. Should there be a demand, a Naia section may also open at K-Bay, Biegel said.
Currently the K-Bay branch is focused on getting adults into the classroom for their upcoming open houe scheduled for December.
During the open house, parents can pick up enrollment forms, speak with ASYMCA staff, tour the classes and learn more about learning alongside their children.