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VOC preschool enhances meaning of community

Exploring cultures and advocating for awareness is part of the preschool’s aim. Teaching assistant, Briana Fletes, has been sharing her Spanish language background with the kids each day. She leads a Spanish-immersion story circle. Courtesy photo

Exploring cultures and advocating for awareness is part of the preschool’s aim. Teaching assistant, Briana Fletes, has been sharing her Spanish language background with the kids each day. She leads a Spanish-immersion story circle. Courtesy photo

The Village of Oak Creek’s preschool has created opportunities for connection with community members in our most recent topic of study. 

While COVID has challenged the Sedona Village Learning Center to connect with people outside the classroom, this past month has been slightly different. Students have been fortunate to have a few visitors come (safe with masks) talk about their lives as part of the exploration of the places people live and the jobs they do as part of the unit on “community.”

There are many types of communities and different types of people who live and work all over the world. Students looked at communities ranging from here in the Verde Valley to ones in different countries.

For example, in one lesson, they focused on the question, where do people live? Projects included seeing dwellings such as grass huts in developing nations and high-rise condos in large cities, which represent how different our lives can be on one planet.

Preschool Director Shara Coughlin emphasized the importance of multicultural learning in studying community. “I looked out our vocabulary words and the concepts we are teaching - ‘home,’ and ‘citizen,’ for example. I wondered, how do we handle equity, justice and kindness in talking about community? When I reflected on what it means to be what we call a ‘good citizen,’ I wanted to show that there are many people who live here and contribute.” 

Coughlin invited visitors to the classroom to demonstrate their contribution and represent their jobs. Camilla Ross, founder of Sedona Arts Academy, came to talk about the importance of arts in connecting the community.

She invited preschool families for a private viewing of Herschell Turner’s exhibit of leaders, artists and figures throughout history.

The several families who attended found significance in Turner’s portrayal of African-American leadership. The preschool embraced the opportunity to participate in Black History month 

Exploring cultures and advocating for awareness is part of the preschool’s aim. Teaching assistant, Briana Fletes, has been sharing her Spanish language background with the kids each day. She leads a Spanish-immersion story circle.

She read the book, “We are the Same, We are Different, We are One” in Spanish for example.

Of her experience teaching, Fletes says, “The kids pay attention to the stories in Spanish. They are listening, they don’t just space out because they don’t understand me. They often later will remember a word from the book and ask me what it means. At this age it’s perfect for learning Spanish because they’re so young and soak up everything they see.” In the past, she has done drama performances of classic stories using props to show the story while speaking Spanish.

Sedona Village Learning Center is eager to share more learning opportunities with others in the community. The school thrives on being connected to the growth and health of the area.

The support from the community has been tremendous, raising over $50,000 in the past year to keep the program alive during the pandemic. Having grown to 16 students, the school currently has a waitlist and is hiring a 3rd staff.

The scholarship program has been able to maintain its commitment to families because of community support: keeping private education accessible regardless of income has been a core value, and to date the preschool has provided families with over $15,000 in financial aid.

Community has been a key factor to the preschool’s first year, and there is more connection all the time. A few exciting partnerships are coming through the pipeline as well to bring more visitors and programs in. Sharing stories helps us all learn about each other and inspire our young people to stay connected regardless of differences.

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