MEXICO – Julie Webber is getting a solid background for going into elementary education. Hannah Freeman plans to take up nursing and thought that working with young children would provide her with some experience. And Devon Vaughn simply loves little children and thought the program was a good thing for everyone.

The three Dirigo and Mountain Valley high school seniors are among 18 enrolled in Region 9 School of Applied Technology’s new early childhood education program.

On Thursday morning, the students were having fun with about a dozen toddlers and pre-schoolers during free play. Some little ones were tossing balls into basketball hoops, others were bouncing on balls or looking at picture books with the help of the Region 9 students.

Earlier in the morning, the toddlers were learning letters, numbers, days of the week, and other things that will help them when they get to kindergarten. They also receive a healthy snack everyday.

“The more familiar with what is expected when they go to school, the better students will be when they get there,” said Terri Downs, instructor for the Region 9 program.

She taught a similar program at Region 11 in Brunswick.

In winter or during inclement weather, the free play takes place in a large, bright classroom full of vivid colors, toys, rugs, books and other things that appeal to tiny tots. In good weather, the youngsters go outside to play in a sandbox, on a bicycle carousel, with a basketball hoop, or with other age-appropriate toys.

About 18 youngsters attend the early childhood program on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at a cost of $3 a day. Downs said she has a waiting list.

Downs said if vocational students complete the two-year program, they can become certified as an early childhood assistant. The vocational students spend part of each class day with the little ones, and the rest of the day learning the academics behind teaching youngsters.

“They develop appropriate practices, then apply them,” Downs said.

The program is one of two new vocational programs that began this school year. The other is automotive technology.



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