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Week of the Young Child

By Staff | Apr 21, 2008

This toddler was learning how to move the mouse around on the computer in the ECFE room.

Parents of pre-school aged children in Faribault County have many choices when it comes to giving their kids educational opportunities before kindergarten.

There is Head Start, Jump Start, Small Steps, Little Lukes and ECFE, to name a few.

During last week’s official “Week of the Young Child” each of the programs were visited by the Faribault County Register for this story. While each of the programs is similar in that they offer education for children who are not yet in kindergarten, they also differ in some of their techniques.

For parents who are wondering what each of the programs offer, here is a brief rundown on each one.

Head Start

Head Start is located in both Blue Earth and Wells and currently serves 59 children, 37 of them in Blue Earth.

It is located in the MVAC building on Main Street in Blue Earth, and is operated by the Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC). The director is Fay Smith.

Head Start is for children aged three and four. “They must be either three or four as of September 1st each year,” Smith said. The Head Start program runs from September to May each year.

“We are definitely a pre-school program, not a day-care service,” Smith said.

Head Start is the one program for pre-schoolers that is income based. There is no charge for the program.

In Blue Earth they are a center based program. There are 19 kids in the morning program and 18 in the afternoon session.

All the kids get lunch as part of the program. “The Blue Earth Area Schools provide the lunches,” Smith said. “We have a wonderful collaboration with the school in many ways.” Breakfast in the morning and a snack in the afternoon are also provided.

The children are taught the necessary skills of language, socializing, and learning that will help them be successful in kindergarten. Some of them have some type of disability.

“Actually we say that we help children of all abilities,” said Smith.

The staff also monitors nutrition and health of the children. Each child has to have a full physical, immunizations, and dental exam before starting Head Start.

Head Start has been in the MVAC building for the past six years. Before that they had been located in a center in the industrial park and in several churches.

“We are very lucky to have this nice area now,” Smith said. “We have a nice playground outside also.”

ECFE Programs

Early Childhood and Family Education is located in the Blue Earth Area Elementary School, and is funded through the Community Education program at the school.

They operate a couple of rooms at the school, called Discovery Place. The director is Sue Vogelsang.

“All together we serve 125 families and 76 children at the current time,” Vogelsang said.

They have classes for; pre-school 4 and 5 year olds; three year olds; and toddlers and two year olds.

There are 18 kids on Mondays, 14 on Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings, 19 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, 17 on Wednesday mornings, and 11 for the toddlers and twos class. There is also a Wednesday evening class.

For the toddlers and twos, the parents spend 45 minutes with their child in the room, then spend 45 minutes in another room discussing parenting topics. “That is where the parent education part of ECFE comes in,” Vogelsang said. The kids continue playing and learning in the classroom.

The younger children have less structure and more play time, Vogelsang said. But the three to five year olds have more structure and more learning. “We also sponsor some ECFE group activities for families,” she said.

Small Steps

This program is also run through the ECFE program. There are two classrooms at the BEA Elementary school.

Small Steps is a special ed program for three and four year olds. There are two teachers, Shelly Moeller and Rae Dierks.

Moeller has both a morning class (nine students) and an afternoon class (eight students). Dierks has just an afternoon class.

“Our goal is to develop skills to get ready for kindergarten,” Moeller said. All of the kids have some kind of special need, she added.

They work on some speech and occupational therapy, besides play time, story time, gym and school work. “We do a lot of one on one time,” Moeller said.

The children come from Blue Earth, Winnebago, Frost and other areas of the school district. Busing is provided by the district.

They operate with the school year, but also have a two week summer session if they feel a child might regress over summer.

Little Lukes

Although technically a child care center, Little Lukes also does a lot of pre-school teaching as well.

They have 42 children at the center right now, ranging in age from six weeks old to five years old. Six of them are infants.

Director Lynn Anderson said that when Little Lukes moves from their current site in St. Lukes, to their new location in the Ag Center, they will increase to 63 kids.

“We are pretty cramped right now,” she said. They have 3,000 square feet currently and will have 11,000 sq. ft. after the move. “It’s going to be wonderful to actually have a lunchroom and separate play area,” she said. They have been in the current building since 1992.

Little Lukes has what they term ‘pre-school enhancement programs’ for many of the children. “We do more exploring type of activities for the toddlers and two year olds, and more learning sessions with the three to five year olds,” Anderson said.

Little Lukes has 13 staff members, and have two adults in each room, a teacher and an assistant. “We will need at least three more staff people when we move,” she said.

As opposed to many of the other pre-school programs, Little Lukes doesn’t get funds from local or state entities. “Our budget is fee-based,” Anderson said, meaning that the fees that parents pay for child care fund the program.

Jump Start

Anderson is also the director of a program called Jump Start. It is a division of Little Lukes, and is also run through Community Education.

“Jump Start is an early childhood program designed to provide skills children need to enter kindergarten in the fall,” Anderson said. It is operated in the BEA Elementary School.

“When the school went to all-day, every day kindergarten we saw a need for a program to prepare kids for the every day learning experience,” Anderson explained.

The children not only learn academic skills, but also social and behavior skills. They also get familiar with the elementary school so they know where things are in the fall.

“It helps ensure a successful kindergarten experience for all the children,” Anderson said.

More Information

For more information on Little Lukes or Jump Start, call Lynn Anderson at 526-5554 or 526-2551. For more information on Head Start call Fay Smith at 526-5458. For more information about the ECFE programs, call Sue Vogelsang at the BEA Elementary School at 526-3090.

The Week of the Young Child was started in 1971 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It not only is a time to celebrate successes, organizers say, but also a time for discussion on how everyone can join together to ensure that all young children get a great foundation for success.