On August 17, 2017, the students and faculty at St. Thomas Aquinas welcomed the new preschoolers to their school. The school, after a year of careful planning, opened up the preschool to help fulfill the needs of the community.
Many young families around the St. Thomas community wondered when they would add a preschool. Mrs. Swinefurth, principal at STA, and the parishioners of the church noticed that there were not many ways that they were serving young families. The families could participate in Baptism, however, they could do no more until their children were of Kindergarten age. So, they made a joint decision with the parish to add a preschool onto the school. The process started a year ago. “We looked at other programs close in our area to see almost what the ‘competition’ would be. We had to look at our facility and say, Where were they going to be? We had to look at the design of what kind of curriculum we wanted them to have. And then, at the end, we needed the approval of Fr. Steve, the parish council, and the school commission to really put it out there,” Mrs. Swinefurth explained.
Students, range in age from three to age five under the leadership of Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Schmoll. “We do everything learning through play. During the day, they have centers and have specials. And we do a few circle times where it is like a whole group activity. We also like to go outside: visit the chickens, play outside, walk around,” Mrs. Wright explained. Some of the other activities that the preschoolers do include art projects, especially painting, and playing with Playdough, homemade slime, Lego blocks, cars, water table, and the house area. The preschoolers also do five different specials. They do Music, Art, PE, Library, and Spanish.
Emery, a preschooler at STA, loves going to school. “I want to stay at this school forever and ever and ever,” she exclaimed. Emery likes to do art, read, and go to music class. “I love music. I tried to convince my mom to get me a guitar,” she said. Lily, another preschooler, also likes music class. “I play with music class. We get to sing,” Lily described. Lily’s favorite activities are playing with the kitchen and playing outside. “We have climbing stuff!” she said. Preschoolers like to play together. Wyatt, another preschooler, explained, “I like to play with Nolan and play with the moon sand.” Not only do the preschoolers play, but they also do fun experiments. “During Science, we watch the celery. It is dying but it is turning blue and red and brown,” Wyatt said.
The teachers like to teach the students through play. “We teach them through play, hands on, we do some things as a whole group, and that is more of like direct instruction, and a lot of small group, 2 or 3 kids either working independently or with a teacher. We talk through things with them. They can also sometimes teach each other because of the ages. We make them independent while teaching them,” mentioned Mrs. Wright. On Mondays, they practice teamwork by doing the chickens. “We collect the eggs, and make sure there is enough water and food,” Mrs. Schmoll explained.
Not only do the preschoolers and teachers themselves enjoy STA, but the faculty as well. Mrs. Swinefurth said that the preschoolers continuously do well and the school sees many changes in the preschool’s future. “My main plan is for the preschoolers to move into kindergarten. As for the program, I would love for it to grow and maybe have more than one class,” she said. “I think that the preschoolers are really adding a joy and a spirit here that we did not even know we were missing,” she added.