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Teaching children in a little Albert Lea

Preschoolers learn during open school initiative

United Preschool students are learning about Albert Lea in a fun learning environment.

Children are participating in the open school program, an initiative at the school that teaches children about the community.

School staff reportedly asked the school’s approximately 150 students, who range in age from about 3 to 6 years old, about their knowledge of buildings and businesses in Albert Lea. Children worked together to create street signs, buildings, flags, lampposts and flower pots — all items found in Albert Lea.

Students work in an area with a pet store, veterinary clinic and humane society set up. Donations were brought in to use as props, which will be donated to the Humane Society of Freeborn County. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The school developed dramatic play areas, including local businesses and community resources. A grocery store, post office, flower shop, Myre-Big Island State Park, restaurants, an art store and a pet store, veterinary clinic and humane society area were created, along with an arena and fitness and gymnastics centers. 

Also included were making appointments in a car repair shop, taking orders in a restaurant and completing a pet adoption form to provide children opportunities to develop early written language skills.

Students run, bike and scoot laps around the lower level of United Preschool’s open school program on Thursday. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Preschool teacher Annie Olson said family members of the children have expressed interest in the program.

“We hear it from the kids, but we also hear it from the parents,” she said. “The parents are coming back saying, ‘you have to tell us more about open school, because the kids at home are talking about it.’

United Preschool students use the gym and fitness area setup as a part of the open school program. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“We’ve had siblings come and have to visit because they’ve heard so many exciting things at home.”

Blair Baldwin, 5, said she enjoyed the event “because it has cars, and I love cars,” and she likes how cars drive. 

Baldwin played in the ice cream shop and gave people pizza and plastic ice cream.

“In planning for little Albert Lea, all of the standards for early childhood learning can be met through play, engaging with adults and their peers,” according to the school. “For example, we measure the fish that can be caught in Albert Lea lakes, recognize numerals on our menu board and count out a lot of money at different cash registers.”

In prior years, United Preschool has had the open school program relate to being under the sea, children’s authors, princesses and pirates and zoos and jungles.

A flower shop area was set up as a part of the open school program at United Preschool. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“Staff and volunteers at the preschool continue to dedicate a lot of time and energy into making our school an engaging and exciting place for all children to learn on their own developmental timeline,” according to the school. “Much thought goes into each dramatic play area so incidental teaching can occur throughout the entire day.

“It has been amazing to watch the growth of the children during the last three weeks as they are imitating their parents and other community members, making new friends, solving their own problems, working together and learning about our community. It is also wonderful to hear from the families of United Preschool students about the excitement of coming back to school each and every day.”

A gym and fitness area was set up as a part of the open school program. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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