The Learning Vine
The Learning Vine is a preschool program of The Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center. The program is for children between 4 and 5 years of age. The program offers both a drop-off option and a parent cooperative, where parents stay on site and are active in the program (preparing snack, working in the classroom, doing activities and projects, organizing field trips and special events, making books, caring for siblings and more). Our aim is to have an equal balance of families involved in the above options. The program runs 2 mornings each week. Some families also participate in Better Beginnings Parent-Child Groups. The Learning Vine teacher, a Master’s level professional, is a certified early childhood teacher and parent educator with many years of experience. In addition to working with the children, she is available to work with parents on any challenges around parenting preschoolers. Parents have daily opportunities to observe their children at “work”.
Morning at The Learning Vine begins with a lively sing time. Led by teacher, Carol Lunan, children and parents sing timeless favorites such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and also learn new songs. Hand signs and finger plays accompany each song. As the year goes on simple games, like "Duck, Duck, Goose", are also enjoyed. Carol will share the previous day’s artwork or other projects with the children and parents. Next the children make plans for the morning by choosing activities. Sponge painting, milkweed pod fairies, block building or dramatic play are just a few of the options. As choices are made, children place their colorful nametags on the “Planning Board”.
Work time follows, when each child begins the first chosen activity. Children use their creativity, as well as problem solving, investigative and social skills. A child in the “Block Area” may ask, “Know what I’m making? I’m making a hospital”. From the “Library” comes “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” Children experiment with cutting yarn or matching leaves or gourds by shape with outlines traced onto a piece of paper in the “Science Corner”. “Toys” offers a variety of manipulative games, puzzles and toys. The “House” area gives opportunities for dress-up and dramatic play, and is often transformed into a campsite, store or other special place. In the adjoining room children can explore in the “Paint” and “Art” areas. The process of decision making, problem solving, discovery and trial and error learning is indeed a child’s “work”!
The work time process culminates with a “Recall Activity”. The teacher, the parent assistant and the children remember work time by making a list of items touched or by retrieving items of a specific color from each work area. The teacher and the children then discuss who was working in that area and what they did. The group might read a hand-made story about work time, featuring comments by and photographs of the children during their time at The Learning Vine.
The “Snack Time” announcement brings cheers from the children. Families take turns providing snack for the group. These preschoolers pour their own drinks (with help) and pass along snacks to each other. Cleaning up is everyone's responsibility, and the children help!
Circle time rounds out the inside portion of the morning. Favorite books, some made by the preschool group such as "Our visit to Antrim Marketplace", or circle games are often requested. Movement activities develop awareness of order, personal space, stopping and going on signal, and taking care of each other's safety. Finally it is time to go outside. The children make use of every inch of the modest fenced in yard. They run, climb, hop, chase and are chased! What a morning!