With the aid of magnifying glasses, Ryleigh Guthrie, left, and Mariah Euler enjoy exploring the intracacies of pine cones during the science-time part of the preschool kidsí busy daily schedule at North Powder. CHRIS BAXTER - The Observer
Critiques from students can sometimes be music to the ears of a school district superintendent.
Lance Dixon, superintendent of the North Powder School District, understands this well. Dixon noted that recently his daughter Kellee, 4, a student in the North Powder School District’s new preschool program, came home and issued a critique.
Kellee told her father that he needed to boost the number of days the preschool program operates each week from two to four. She explained that the week needs to be longer because she enjoys attending preschool so much.
Lance Dixon does not plan to extend the preschool week anytime soon, but he is encouraged with how the program, which has 11 children, is doing.
“We have more students than I thought we would,’’ Dixon said.
The program, known as Little Badgers Pre-School, is offered each Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and focuses on getting children ready for kindergarten. The students are exposed to a curriculum that will dovetail with the one they will be exposed to a year from now.
“We want to give a jump start for kindergarten,’’ said Powder Valley Elementary Principal Gerald Hopkins.
Preschoolers are receiving instruction on dancing, cutting and pasting, tracing letters and their names on paper, letter identification and more. They also are read to in order to help them develop an understanding of story structure.
Children attend preschool in a room in the building housing the school district’s health center.
The preschool program is free of charge to all children who were four years old as of Sept. 4. Its teacher is Lisa Aichele, who previously worked 6 1/2 years in the North Powder School District as a teacher aide.
Aichele received her teacher training from EOU and is being mentored by Molly Smith, a third-grade teacher at Powder Valley Elementary. Smith is conducting her mentorship as part of an administrative degree program in which she is enrolled at the University of Oregon.
North Powder is now one of the few school districts in Northeast Oregon with a preschool program. The school district’s previous preschool program was discontinued four years ago.
Little Badgers Pre-School is a big step up from the one the school district previously had. The children in that program came to school in the afternoon, joining North Powder Elementary’s kindergarten class. The preschoolers boosted the number of students in the kindergarten classroom to about 35, a number that was too large, Dixon said.
The preschoolers were taught socialization skills but were not exposed to a curriculum tied to that of the kindergarten. This is a far cry from Little Badgers Pre-School, which is providing students with a background designed to help them hit the ground running when they enter kindergarten, Dixon said.