Pre-K teacher Marian Moore-Rounds says that for the pre-schoolers she leads, her “Maple Room” at the Oak Park and River Forest Day Nursery is their final frontier to kindergarten, and by year’s end, each and every child will be kindergarten-ready.
At least that is the aspiration she has for the mostly four year olds who are learning, laughing and living in the Day Nursery’s family-focused school community.
“I think of kindergarten-readiness as a two-fold thing,” said Moore-Rounds. “In addition to their cognitive development, being ready for kindergarten is also about developing social-emotional skills, which means we are making sure the children know how to share, negotiate, follow direction, and be able to self regulate by exhibiting control over their behaviors.”
Ethan Colchamiro’s daughter is a proud member of Ms. Marian’s graduating class of 2015.
“When my daughter started at the Day Nursery three-and-one-half-years ago, she was shy, but she was also very active, and the teachers were able to channel that,” he said, adding that his child has “always had an interest in words and reading, and at the Day Nursery they cultivated that,” and by the time she left she was reading at a third grade level.
“It was amazing,” said the Oak Park dad.
Complementing her in-class approach to early education, Moore-Rounds says she makes an effort to meet the children wherever their interests are.
She calls the experiential learning, studies of the world at large.
“In spring we had one child whose grandparent was working on a construction site as a project manager at Lake Street and Forest Avenue in Oak Park. So, he came into the classroom to read books about the topic, and showed them blue prints, so they could draw their own blue prints, then build something based on it,” said Moore-Rounds, adding that “Geez, we even found a very old blueprint of the Day Nursery. That was fun.”
Spending hours at an active construction site in Downtown Oak Park was a chance to wear little hard hats.
“The site manager explained everything about the construction tools they were using to build the structure and a little bit of the building process,” Moore-Rounds recalled. “The kids were really interested in the busyness of the construction site. There were a lot of people and a lot of machines.”
Kate Gantzer-Hayes recalls how for her oldest son “writing was a huge thing they worked on with my son [and strengthening of social skills]…really, in an instructive and patient way,” adding that she recently enrolled her youngest boy because “one of the things that I love about living in Oak Park is that we have people from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and the thing I like about the Day Nursery, is that when I walk into that door I see all that reflected by the students who are there.”
Executive director Cari Christoff said that the 77 children, age 3½ to 5 years old, who matriculate through her program are all “learning how to be part of a larger group and a family. Being accepting of all of its members. Now that is really an important skill all of us need to learn in life,” she said.