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Life lessons at Sedona Village Learning Center

Founder Joanna Horton McPherson (right) and School Director and teacher, Shara Coughlin. Courtesy photo

Founder Joanna Horton McPherson (right) and School Director and teacher, Shara Coughlin. Courtesy photo

Originally planning to open in March, local preschool Sedona Village Learning Center Founder was stalled by the pandemic. Rather than do nothing, Founder Joanna Horton McPherson and school director & teacher, Shara Coughlin in the Big Park school building offered programming online with take-home activity bags. As parents returned to work, however, they needed to find a way to safely open in-person.

“We know our families personally,” said McPherson. “We talked, texted and called throughout to stay in touch to keep them in the loop.” The school created a protocol including taking temperatures, and washing/sanitizing hands continuously. Coughlin removed extra chairs for distance when kids are seated. The school also installed 2 HEPA-grade air filtration systems.

When the school planned to close briefly during the peak coronavirus case numbers, Coughlin says, “I had parents tell me, ‘Anywhere else I have to take my child will be more dangerous.’ Because of the extensive protocols we practice every day, the parents feel our place is the safest place around.” Coughlin adapted the curriculum to prevent the spread of germs. “We spend lots of time outside - in the shade - doing things like learning about animals and plants for our unit on farming. We learned about chickens, cows and sheep and played with our model cow - even learning how to milk it. Part of farming is learning where food comes from, such as the veggies and fruits we eat every day. Snack was even part of the lesson, teaching us about the biology of the plants.”

Of her experience at the preschool, one parent says, “I love seeing my daughter’s social and emotional intelligence blossom. She has a joy for learning and excitement to teach others. I truly couldn’t be more pleased with our choice for her educational path.” One student's mother reports that at the end of her daughter’s first day, the girl didn't want to leave but "stay and play with her friends."

In the upcoming open house, Coughlin discusses the recent unit, “What it means to be a friend.” “We explored the meaning of friendship and how we treat ourselves and others,” says Coughlin. "Four our ‘play around the world’ unit, we explored cultures through unique games and traditions. We made windmill and tulip landscapes, Japanese fans, cherry blossom trees and piñatas. We sampled cuisine from around the globe for snacktime, and learned a song in three languages. These help us realize how ‘play and friendship’ are a universal language,” says Coughlin. Her message was that we’re more similar than we think and yet stronger as a global community because of our differences.

“We’re now enrolling,” says Coughlin, “this is the time to hear what we’re about!”

The open house features show & tell and Q&A held via Zoom at 5:30 pm on September 17 and monthly 3rd Thursdays. Interested families of 3-5 year olds can register on the website at, or call 928-275-3958 for more information.

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