Duneland’s young learners are poised to have an unprecedented head start over their local peers. Across the state, there is a growing need for access to early childhood education given the lack of a universal or state-funded preschool. The Duneland School Corporation may have developed a solution to fill the gaps locally. The Early Learning HUB, the first program of its kind in Porter County, will kick off this coming semester with the aim of focusing on the education of children from birth to age 5, as well as their families and guardians, before they ‘they do not enter the district kindergartens.
This proactive DSC initiative is something that Christy Jarka, Director of Grants, Assessments and Special Programs, hopes to positively impact the K-12 experience for young learners and adults in their lives. “Early learning usually starts at birth and we don’t want to wait until kindergarten,” Jarka stressed. “We want to give families resources early. We want to be proactive. We also see hesitations among families who want to come to schools, for various reasons, and we want to welcome them early so they can see that we really want to be a partner.
HUB co-coordinator Amy Curtis totally agrees with Jarka. “Our number one goal as a HUB, which means helping, understanding and building, is that we are seen as, as soon as a family learns that they are expecting a child, that they can come to us and we can start. to provide them with resources, ”Curtis said. “We really want to be that glue for the community. I think we really see it as a community initiative. Bringing people and families together to get to know the society before their child enters kindergarten and we get to know who is part of our community and what needs we have to support.
Tonia Kitchel, Curtis’ co-coordinator, explained that the first brainstorm when developing this newborn to kindergarten initiative brought them back to the idea of a resource center for local families. “We want to be the bridge between families, the community and the other resources around them,” Kitchel reiterated. “We are trying to help all of our families in Duneland. We try to understand the needs of our community and of the children who come to see us. We try to make those connections early for everyone.
As well as helping to make connections with families already living within the Duneland School Corporation boundaries, Jarka also hopes this new program will help solidify Duneland as a sought-after area for new families. “We want Duneland’s schools to be the place where people think about learning from birth,” Jarka said. “We want to start building that trusting relationship with the families of Duneland, as well as with those looking to relocate to the Duneland area, and we want it to be a place they want to be because of the schools. We’re here to guide you and provide you with resources. If a family is unsure of what to do next in a situation, we want them to contact us.
The HUB, which will be open to any Duneland family with a child not yet enrolled in Kindergarten, will begin offering classes in February through two separate models. The first learning path, Trojan Tykes, is a literacy-rich, play-based program that children and their guardians can take together. To boot, this program will run twice a month until the next school year, when, according to Curtis, it will hopefully become a weekly reunion.
The goal of Trojan Tykes will align with the four goals that Curtis and Kitchel kept in mind when developing their program. These goals include learning through play, creating an environment rich in literacy, socio-emotional learning, and teaching executive functioning. “Families will be coming with their children and we will be participating in different activities,” said Curtis. “We are also looking to give children the opportunity to enter the school building, make the transition between classrooms, sit on the mat, follow a teacher’s instructions and sit down. make friends.”
The second way families can interact with the HUB is by participating in monthly emporiums, led by Kitchel, which will help educate families and caregivers on a variety of common children’s issues and concerns. “The educator center will be exactly what it says, it will be an opportunity where Tonia takes the initiative to educate the caregiver,” Jarka said. “It could be a situation of ‘Okay today during the game, note white. Then we could learn how you interact and help your child at home if that happens, but also the community and caregiver feedback and what they want to know more.
Kitchel, who hopes to expand the stores and offer them every two months by the next school year, said topics can range from anything that’s hard to eat to sleep patterns.
“We will pick hot topics and listen to what parents tell us or ask us and take it from there,” Kitchel said. “We want to develop this feeling of community. No matter how old your child is, parenting can be difficult and we want to help each other out and share ideas.
Whether families sign up with the intention of attending Trojan Tykes, emporiums, or both, coordinators want families and caregivers to know that the HUB is by no means a drop-off program, but rather a joint effort. between the child and the adults in their life. “One thing we ran into very early on is people assume we’re a preschool, which we’re not, so we want to make sure that word gets out there,” Kitchel said.
While not in the HUB classrooms, which are located at Chesterton Middle School, families will have access to the resources found on the Early Learning website. The website will have lists of home activities that coordinators describe as affordable and accessible DIY projects along with pre-recorded videos. Videos found on the website will feature books read aloud by special guests from Duneland, songs and musical performances by the high school band.
In addition to activities and videos, access to listings of local resources, such as NorthShore and Jacob’s Ladder Health Centers, will also be online. These groups, along with the Chesterton Fire and Police Services, the YMCA of Duneland, the Westchester Public Library and many more, will have representatives at the community launch event on Wednesday January 26 to discuss their services. This is an essential element in bringing HUB families closer to the community. “I hope the feeling is that we don’t want to replace any service in the community, but we want to support and work with these other organizations in our communities,” Jarka stressed.
Those interested in learning more about the HUB’s opportunities are encouraged to attend the open house style launch event between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on January 26 or visit www.duneland.k12.in.us/earlylearninghub for more information.