An adventure in education
Published 10:11 am Thursday, April 9, 2015
Preschoolers learn through play with open school weeks
For two weeks out of the school year, United Preschool students get to experience open school.
That’s what Audra Beussman describes as a two-week program where United Preschool students get the chance to play and learn with students from another class at the school.
Email newsletter signup
While normally there are two classrooms, during open school the students intermingle and select which rooms they want to play in. United Preschool has been doing open school for over 20 years, and each year the theme is different. Beussman said sometimes themes are brought back, but are usually different in some way.
This year’s theme is Young Albert Lea. Six classrooms were recreated into businesses that are represented in Albert Lea, and the students could play and act as either the employees or the customers.
One room was a hospital, dentist, eye doctor and physical therapist’s office. Another room was the fitness center. There was also a grocery store and a room featuring a Dairy Queen, McDonald’s and Jake’s Pizza.
The hallway also featured Albert Lea Lake at one end and the Albert Lea airport at the other, with the hall turning into a road. Beussman said the boys enjoyed driving cars up and down the hall and playing with airplanes while the girls preferred to play in the different areas.
The theme came about in regards to one of United Preschool’s goals, which is “Take care of our school.” Beussman said that goal goes further than just taking care of the actual school building, but also refers to the world, the environment and the community, and that’s what sparked the theme of Young Albert Lea.
Albert Lea Parks and Recreation donated signs and a jacket, Beussman said, and various businesses donated some empty medicine bottles. Celebrations, Minnesota Corrugated Box and Jake’s Pizza also made donations, she said.
Before spring break, the staff and students worked on creating signs, posters, light posts and street signs for the hallway. Most of the street signs featured names of streets where either a student lived or someone a student knew lived, Beussman said.
Open school started after spring break was over, but Beussman said students were getting excited even before they left for break. She also said staff was looking forward to coming back to school after a longer vacation, something she said can be difficult.
Despite open school being rooted in play, there is learning involved — and Beussman said students learn the most through play.
The eye charts in the eye doctor’s office featured letters and shapes to help students learn, and the food shelves are labeled to help students learn to read, and there are many other learning opportunities.
Open school occurs for about two weeks in late winter or spring, Beussman said, though sometimes it goes longer if the students are interested enough. Beussman said the school never does open school in the fall, because by late winter or spring students understand school rules and also have relationships with school staff.
“We’re a community,” she said.
There are about 150 students at United Preschool from ages 3 to 5. The students attend school anywhere from two to five days per week for two to three hours per day. Registration is open for next year and applications are being accepted.