2015 has been a year of great growth here at Growing Together Preschool. Here’s what we’ve been up to this year.
SENSORY SMART CLASSROOMS & MNRI MOVEMENT GROUPS
Our classrooms are currently undergoing a transformation into sensory-smart classrooms, and we began MNRI movement groups with our occupational therapist, Kristy Stamper. The overall goal of both programs is to improve children’s ability to self-regulate. It is important that children establish this early on so that when they are ready for school they are able to attend and pay attention.
The classroom environments are transitioning to be more less overstimulating and to provide an overall sense of calm. Classroom materials are being introduced that provide children outlets to seek or block sensory input from sight, sound, touch, motion and balance as needed. Materials include privacy cubes, noise cancelling headphones, items of various textures, light diffusers, balance boards, weighted toys body socks and sound machines. Our teachers and therapists work with children to understand the appropriate use of the items and support children in recognizing when these items will be helpful for them.
MNRI (Musgutova Neuro-Sensory-Motor and Reflex Integration) encourages the use of innate developmental movements that help children, especially those with challenges, to improve their behavior, overall functioning, and learning. The movement patterns are based on infant reflexes, which were thought to disappear after serving their purpose. However, since those movements develop along with the social and emotional parts of the brain, practicing these movements contribute to better social and emotional development such as self-regulation. These movements also create additional pathways in the brain, which are useful for children who may have missed a part of their brain development due to prenatal defects, metabolic disorders or abuse and neglect, and to help overcome brain injuries that may happen to an individual later in life.
Implementations of MNRI movement groups and Sensory Smart Classrooms will provide play, exploration and learning opportunities for the development of the major sensory systems that are the foundation for self-regulation, attention and cognitive development. As a program that is mission-driven to provide an inclusive environment, these enhancements will meet the varying needs of both children with and without special needs and benefit all children in the program.
FARM TO PRESCHOOL
Thanks to grants from the USDA and the National Farm to School Network, we are able to expand on our Kentucky Proud Farm to Preschool program. Those grants have allowed us to build community gardens, implement a nutrition education program and purchase kitchen equipment to make the preparation of fresh food easier. As the first KY Proud preschool in the Commonwealth we have mentored other early care and education centers throughout 2015 and look forward to partnering with other organizations to improve the nutritional status of young children throughout Kentucky.
As part of fulfilling our mission of inclusion, we have always helped some families with paying for therapy. This year we were able to begin a tuition scholarship program for children with special needs who are also from low-income families. This scholarship allowed 5 children to become part of the Growing Together Preschool family in 2015.
HEAD START AND EARLY HEAD START
This year we also enhanced our partnership with Community Action Council’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs to ensure renovation of 2 of our 3 playgrounds. Playground renovation has been a long time, but expensive need. Our vast backyard is our blessing and our curse – tons of green space provide an natural environment for children to explore and learn, but is costly to maintain and update. We want this space to be safer and an contribute to exploration of the natural environment. This means that 2016’s first and biggest goal is to raise funds to renovate our 3rd playground area so that all the children have access to safe, engaging play spaces.
Please help us to expand on these programs, bolster our scholarship funds and help us repair the grounds and rebuild the playgrounds by making a donation to GTP through #KYGives Day on #GivingTuesday!