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Paynesville Press - Dec. 11, 2002

Lutheran church offers Bible-based preschool

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

A new preschool at the Paynesville Lutheran Church gives youngsters a head start on kindergarten skills with a curriculum that integrates the Bible in all aspects of learning.

The preschool opened its doors in September under the direction of teacher Tammy Weinke, teaching assistant Jackie Svejkovsky, and a board of directors. The program is licensed to teach up to 20 children and currently has 16 enrolled.

The curriculum is Bible based, but it doesn't favor any particular faith. In fact, said Weinke, the preschool has welcomed children from every church in the city.

A typical day begins with group time - a time for prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the day's Bible story. Next, students go to learning centers where they work on the skills that will help them in kindergarten: cutting and pasting, learning colors and shapes, and discovering numbers and letters. Each of the activities is based on the day's Bible story; there's even a drama center where students can act out the day's Bible story.

Sidney Smith with puppet - photo by Bonnie Jo Hanson Dee Johnson loves having her daughter, Ella, in the program. "The curriculum is great, and Ella just loves the Christian stories. Most of them are based on friendship, and the stories apply to her daily life," she said.

Students at the preschool begin their days with a bible story that is carried throughout the day's curriculum. Most of the stories apply to the children's daily lives. Students have the opportunity to act out the story at the drama center and with puppets. Here, Sidney Smith displays her skill as a puppeteer.

While the children work on some kindergarten skills, the emphasis is on helping them develop the social skills they'll need when they enter school, like getting along with others, following instructions from a teacher, and being away from their parents. Svejkovsky believes these are some of the most important skills the children will learn.

Tierney Viessman said the preschool has been good for her son's social skills because it gives him the opportunity to work with other children. "Payton loves it. He is quite shy, and it's nice for him to make friends outside of daycare," she said.

Play time is a good time for the children to learn to work together and share, said Svejkovsky. Play activities like painting with shaving cream, cooking in the play kitchen, or loading the animals onto Noah's Ark are also part of the curriculum. The kids have a free play period each day when they can choose their own activities

Weinke, a former kindergarten teacher and Svejkovsky, a former navy hospital corpsman who has spent thousands of hours volunteering in a school setting, teach the group of three-, four-, and five-year-olds. "I just love it. It's very rewarding," said Weinke. "I love working with small children because they're so eager to learn."

Viessman has only good things to say about her son's teachers. She's amazed by their resourcefulness. They've been able to do a lot with a small budget, she said, adding that on the first day of school Weinke had already planned the curriculum for the entire year.

As well as being preschool parents, Johnson and Viessman are both on the preschool's board of directors. As parents, they can participate in the program's day-to-day operations. Johnson said she will stay on the board even when she doesn't have kids in the program, because it's a worthy cause.

Board members are: Sharon Bergman, Johnson, Ann Lemke, Karen Swenson, and Viessman.

The preschool was Swenson's brainchild. She had the idea and pulled together a board that she picked. The board members obtained rules from the state, got support from the church, and started the process of opening the facility. The doors opened in September, about five months after beginning the process. "What took the longest was getting approval from the state," said Johnson.

The program is open to children who turned three before September and haven't started kindergarten. Because she is already four years old, Ella's first year at the pre-school is also her last since she will go to kindergarten next year, but she has twin brothers that will enter the program in two years, said Johnson.

Currently, the preschool is open Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. and runs through the school year. Next year, Weinke would like to have enough students to be able to add additional days and, while the kids work in one group now, next year she would like to have enough students to separate them by age.

The cost for the program is $70 per month, and there are still openings for the remainder of this year. Next year, scholarships based on need will be available, although there are none left for the balance of this year.

For more information, call the Paynesville Lutheran Church office at 320-243-3624.

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