By Alesia Mayfield, Eastside News
The science and benefits behind early childhood education are definitive. Children benefit from an environment in which they learn and develop social, emotional and cognitive skills. At the Goodman Community Center, 3-year-olds have a special place in the form of a new classroom.
For years, Goodman 3-year-olds were in the same classroom as 4- and 5-year-olds, but in 2021, GCC introduced a new 3-year-old classroom and the results have been successful.
Separating the 3-year-olds out into their own classroom came about through feedback from the community and allows the children to grow emotionally because many previously have not been in a day care setting. Young 3-year-olds require different supports than older children in preschool.
Miranda Starr, director of child care programs, and Judy Fillner, the children’s teacher, say 3-year-olds need additional attention to thrive. The program passed the city’s accreditation process with flying colors. In fact, the accreditor was scheduled to observe Fillner’s classroom for two days. After the first, the accreditor didn’t need to come back. She had seen all she needed to see.
How the children learn
Fillner uses play-based learning, where she models and teaches interactions with the children — they imagine and create together. “Play is our best learner for kids at that age,” Starr said. “What Judy does so well is teaching relationships” and using social stories to help children build social and emotional skills.
Fillner starts each day with a greeting of a child’s choice, whether it be a hug or a high-five, followed by a Goodman-provided breakfast. The children have age-appropriate academic classes in science, language, math and art — and play time, either at the center or a neighborhood park.
Yoga, meditation and affirmation provide the children with tools to help them build their own toolbox for calming down. Puppets and social stories show the kids ways to make better choices and solve problems on their own.
The class also takes field trips to places like Madison Children’s Museum, YMCA, Troy Gardens and Henry Vilas Zoo. The children also enjoy special guests throughout the week, like African drumming and dance group Limanya, who come to the center.
This is all part of a curriculum that produces a stimulating and creative learning environment and gives the kids the skills to be successful as they advance to 4-year-old kindergarten.
Fillner has over 40 years of teaching experience, working with children ranging from 3 to 13 years old. She has witnessed different styles of teaching.
“I’ve come to realize that my passion isn’t what kids should learn, but how they learn,” she said. “If a child doesn’t know how to control their emotions, they will never get to the academics.”
When she tells the kids she loves them, it makes them feel safe and they return the love.
Learning the Goodman way
Another plus for the 3-year-old classroom is that the children get a stronger foundation on what it means to be part of the Goodman family. They have contact with administrative staff, kitchen staff and other teachers.
“Building the school family is the heart, the start,” Starr said.
The 3-year-old classroom provides all-day child care, Monday through Friday. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the school year and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the summer.
For more information about Goodman’s preschool and 4K programs, call 608-241-1574.
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