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Preschool-age children who demonstrate significant social and emotional difficulties in the classroom setting often have these symptoms as a result of traumatic experiences. SCAN’s Circle Preschool Program opened in February 2011 with the primary goal of the program to provide high quality early childhood education and intensive mental health treatment to children.
The Circle Preschool Program is based on internationally recognized best practices in early childhood education. The preschool staff bases much of their work on the Reggio Emilia Approach, which places importance on children acquiring the skills of critical thinking and collaboration. Educators develop curriculums based on each child’s specific interests, emphasizing both the environment in which a child learns, and the social environment created by caregivers, staff, and peers.
“When we are curious about a child’s words and our responses to those words, the child feels respected. The child is respected: ‘What are these ideas I have that are so interesting to the teacher? I must be somebody with good ideas.’ ” says author Vivian Paley.
Each day, the staff of the Circle Preschool engages each child’s learning involving their great ideas and special interests. They often take a question or idea from a child and build that into a learning experience or project.
A child at the Circle Preschool had the idea to paint the pretend wooden stove in the classroom because, “It looks too old!” Volunteers recommended supplies and led the children in removing the oven door and sanding it. The children drew their own plans for how to paint the door and each child was able to paint their own plan.
Recently, this year’s preschool has been gardening and cooking to model and practice giving good consistent care to things and each other. The children have also been able to hang their Fine Art around the room to marvel at their great ideas and many strengths.
A key theme in preparing a child for Kindergarten within the Circle Preschool involves positive expectations such as; learning I have good ideas, finding out what I am good at and what interests me, learning how to negotiate with others, and how to follow directions and follow through with plans.
Research has shown that children who have social and emotional difficulties early in life are more likely to experience expulsion from school, drop out of school, be arrested, develop substance abuse problems and die at a younger age. The Circle Preschool Program helps young children who have experienced trauma more fully benefit from their education by preventing short-term reactions to trauma from becoming long-term challenges in the classroom and in life.