MENTONE — Mentone’s Kindergarten Readiness Center will begins its second year Aug. 8, and when the children hit the playground they will see a a greenhouse, gifted by businesses and individuals representing a community serious about early childhood education.
The greenhouse is the brainchild of Ashley DuBois, a teacher at the center. “Hopefully, we’ll have some vegetable eaters before the school year is over,” commented DuBois, who has a preschool-age child herself, one of the reasons the former kindergarten teacher was asked to lead the classes. “In a group setting, they are more likely to try new things.”
The center is the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation’s response to a need in a community with many families where both parents work in jobs that may not allow them to pick up children in the middle of the day. The center provides a full day of both baby-sitting and education with a licensed teacher.
Demand was so great there was a waiting list of 42 for the 20 available spots. This year a second class has been added, taught by Holly Bradley.
“The Tippecanoe Valley Board of School Trustees has made the significant financial commitment to provide this important preschool opportunity for two full classrooms of three, four, and five year old children in our community,” said superintendent Brett Boggs. “These children will receive a quality preschool experience from a highly qualified, certified teacher that will prepare them for success in kindergarten.”
Whether or not the children learn to “eats” their spinach, as Popeye suggested, they will gain a clearer understanding of how things grow and where they come from, through a hands-on approach favored by DuBois, where children learn through activities and play. For example, dressed as pirates, her students fashioned small boats they raced in rain gutters without using their hands. Children are encouraged to use their imaginations, employing “things you wouldn’t think of as a toy,” she said. “Our curriculum is very much about nature, exploring, problem-solving.” The center’s motto, “live, learn, grow,” reflects this philosophy.
The greenhouse will also benefit older elementary students as part of Project Lead the Way. “They’ll partner with our kids,” said DuBois, and, in the process, glean more specific knowledge about such things as soil acidity, photosynthesis, plant biology and more. In other words, STEM skills — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
As Mentone is an agricultural community, it is also important to DuBois her students learn about the world that literally surrounds them, with corn and soybean fields growing just outside their windows. “A lot of people don’t do gardens anymore,” she observed.
DuBois found the plan for the greenhouse on Pinterest, it is a simple building and will fit in the playground, protected from vandalism. Her husband, T.J. DuBois, volunteered to build it, which left the cost of materials. Joe Secrist of Niff-Tone Distributors, who had a child at the center, agreed to donate all of the clear polycarbonate siding. Next, DuBois approached Gary Hunter at North Central Co-op about helping with lumber. “He said, ‘we’ll donate everything,’” she remembered. “It cost nothing.”
The benefits are priceless.
For more information, go to mentone.tvsc.k12.in.us/ or the Mentone Kindergarten Readiness Center Facebook page.