If you don’t know about Concordia Learning Center (at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind,) it’s because you aren’t looking for a preschool in Jersey City. While all the Jersey City Public School PreK3 programs use the same curriculum (High Scope), Concordia’s reputation has parents lining up on the sidewalk overnight – this year for two nights – to sign their kids up for the single year program. Suffice it to say, Director Migdalia Viole, or “Ms. Micki” knows early childhood education and parents recognize that.
So, as the school year comes to a close, JCI sat down with Ms. Micki to get some advice on how to keep young children learning over the summer break.
“I wouldn’t sit them down to learn at this age,” begins Ms. Micki, “They are learning from everything around them. What to parents looks like play is actually their work. Intellectually they’re developing.
“In our classrooms, teachers are catalysts. For example, the children do a lot of problem-solving in the block areas. They’ll build a city, skyscrapers… That’s when the teacher might come up and ask, ‘How are they going to get up to the top?’ The children might then build a ramp, or a little basket if they’re familiar with elevators. In this way, they’re thinking instead of the teacher giving them materials in rote form.”
Children like simplicity, explains Ms. Micki, and they learn through it. “Take them (to the beach at Newport) downtown and look at the river. Count boats; point out the different kinds of boats. Categorize the boats. ‘Tugboats are small, cruise ships are large.’ Ask them, ‘How many tugboats do you see?’ This is all learning.”
Miss Micki also suggests that, while electronics can get a bad rap, they can be used to enhance education. “Let’s say they’re outside and they find worms. You can observe the worms, talk about the worms, measure the worms. And then you might go to the computer for research. Find out what they eat, where they live, how big they can get… Relate the electronics to the activities they’re interested in as opposed to watching television without a clear purpose.”
Parents should plan to spend time with the natural world. “Let them dig in the dirt. Plant an edible garden. You don’t need a plot of land, you can just have a pot. Try plants that smell and that they can also use to eat, such as mint or oregano – children like that. Things that they can bring from the outside to the table. And get a nail brush for the dirt under their nails,” she laughs.
Utilize the area, Ms. Micki recommends. “They can go to MOMA and see artwork that looks just like theirs. The Met has knights in shining armor. You don’t have to stay there all day – it’s just a matter of getting out of the house.”
And finally, books. “Books are terribly important. Go to the library. Get the kids their own library card. Reading helps them enter another world, another possibility. They can travel through books. They can explore anything from hibernation, to what happens to butterflies, to rhyming. Books are friendly. It’s very important for children to read all summer.”
“You too,” she finishes, “It’s so important for kids to see their parents reading.”
*Editor’s Note: JCI wants to thank all the incredibly talented and creative educators and administrators who play such an important role in the lives of our children and our city. Thank you!*