According to recent research, there are huge advantages of Early Childhood Education. High-quality early childhood development programs can deliver an annual return of 13% per child on upfront costs through better outcomes in education, health, employment and social behavior. Investing in the continuum of learning during the early years strengthens our country’s workforce today and prepares future generations to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow (Heckman, 2016).
If you observe the early childhood classrooms at Lucy Wortham James Elementary, you will see these areas abuzz with excitement. This excitement carries down the hall and across the drive to what most know as the Mash House. These exciting classrooms house our youngest students: our Tiger Cubs. Children who are enrolled in the Tiger Cubs Program are a part of either our Title I program or our Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program. The three Title I preschool classrooms have fifteen students each. These students were four-years-old by July 31, and were screened in the Spring with a school readiness test and placed in classrooms. The Title I preschool program focuses on kindergarten readiness, including academics as well as social skills.
There are also four ECSE rooms. These classrooms range in size from 10-12 students and host children from three years of age to kindergarten entry age. St. James uses an integrated classroom style where peer models are included with students who need additional support in order to create opportunities for increased communication as well as building social skills. The early childhood program focus is to meet each child where they are and work with them to ensure readiness for kindergarten.
The Tiger Cubs program is comprised of an amazing group of teachers and paraprofessionals who bring an abundance of experience to help our Tiger Cubs students grow. Each year this group of experts create new opportunities for students to learn and grow. Already this Fall, Tiger Cubs students were able to see, hear, touch and climb around in police vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks and they enjoyed a visit from the Missouri Highway Patrol during the community’s Helpers’ Week. They also had the opportunity to see and touch various farm animals including chickens, ducks, goats, ponies, turkeys, and various other animals. Currently they are looking for the gingerbread man who escaped during the baking process. This has been a great hunt!
Tiger Cubs have also taken on a tremendous service learning project this year. Tiger Cubs have teamed-up with the St. James Senior Center in creating seasonal placemats to be used during their meals. The patrons at the Senior Center are enjoying the student art as well as a delicious lunch. Our Tiger Cubs students are using their learning opportunities to brighten someone else’s day. If you have a chance you really should check out their art at the Senior Center.
We are excited about the new early childhood addition and cannot wait to see what excitement that space will bring to the Tiger Cubs program. For the families who are interested in their child(ren) attending the Tiger Cubs program, screenings are typically held in February or March. Future information about the screenings will be disseminated early in the second semester. We strive to provide the very best educational opportunities for all students at St. James R-I School District and we take it very serious as we begin this excellence for our first students in the Tiger Cubs Program.
As the first semester concludes, I would like to thank you for lending us your most precious possessions each week day. The staff at St. James R-I School District appreciates your partnership as we work together to provide exceptional learning opportunities for your children. I am hopeful that each of you will have a safe and festive break with your family and friends for Christmas and the New Year. I look forward to seeing your students as they return to school on Monday, January 6.