Games have begun for the children and parents forming the play-based Nikiski Cooperative Preschool.
Those interested in helping start the family-organized and driven school will meet every Monday from 9:30-10:30 a.m., at the North Star United Methodist Church in Nikiski. The first gathering was this week.
Right now the sessions are relatively informal, said Katy Bethune, who taught in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District as a Title 1 and early intervention specialist teacher for 17 years and is organizing development of the school.
Scheduled time is for parents to establish relationships with each other and watch their children interact within the context of a preschool-like setting, she said.
Families and children 1.5-4-years-old are welcome, Bethune said. All ages socialize together right now, while the parents supervise. Eventually, if there is enough interest and attendance, two groups will form, one for toddlers and one for the older kids, she said.
The division is necessary, because there is a difference between the activities both age groups are able to do safely, and benefit from, Bethune said.
“There are some things the little ones would just put in their mouth,” she said with a laugh.
Curriculum development most likely won’t begin until later, Bethune said. Many of the adult attendees Monday said they wanted to enroll their children in a play-based preschool rather than an academic one, she said.
In a previous Clarion interview, Bethune explained play-based learning teaches children critical thinking skills early, which translates to more enjoyment in their education long-term. The ingestion and regurgitation of information in academic preschools can actually turn students away from learning in the long run, she said.
Meeting once a week acts as a trial run for what daily sessions might look like, Bethune said. It will give time for the parents to further develop their preferences and expectations for operating in a permanent facility, which is the goal for the start of the 2016-2017 school year, she said.
Starting this early also gives the organizers a chance to recruit more parents who may want to be a part of developing the school, and their child’s early education, Bethune said.
The next planning meeting is on Jan. 23, 2016 at a location yet to be determined, followed up by another in March or April, Bethune said. Over the summer, sessions might be scheduled twice a week for the two different age groups, she said.