Books to Blocks: Staples Students Run Their Own Preschool

Books to Blocks: Staples Students Run Their Own Preschool

Photographs Taken By Madeline Hardy ’11

From calculus to ABC’s, Staples students take on the role of teachers in a student run preschool during the Child Study Class. Formally known as Staples Play School, for over 30 years Staples has successfully run a preschool program where students make lesson plans, oversee activities, and observe children.

Amy Smith ’11, currently in the Child Study program, said that it is one of Staples hidden gems.

The program follows the State of Connecticut pre-school framework consisting of three days of playschool as well as one day of reflection and planning. In order to take part in the class, a student must take either child development one or two as well as receive a recommendation from Linda McClary, who is in charge of the program. However, it is worth the wait as students take away both knowledge about children’s behavior and the ability to handle certain responsibilities.

McClary’s goal for the program is to “leave students feeling worthy and that they made a difference in a child’s life.” She hopes students walk away knowing that there is a place in Staples High School where they feel special, wanted, and needed.

And, the program does indeed have that effect on students. Smith said that as teachers they are responsible for the children’s growth and development and they work hard to be successful at this.

“It is the best feeling when you successfully complete a lesson,” Gaby Lynfield ’11 said.

However, the time and effort that go into doing so are immense. A student may spend two to three hours preparing a 10-minute lesson, and then realize it should have been done a different way.

“Sometimes the lessons will work out wonderfully, but other times, they will completely flop,” Smith said.

She said teaching comes along with learning from certain mistakes as well as “switching up lessons on the spot if they are not working.”

After experiencing it themselves, students in the class have gained a tremendous amount of respect for their teachers who put together lesson plans each day.

Harry Lawrence ’11 feels that the program deserves more recognition for all of the hard work that is put into it by both McClary and the students.

The program attracts a variety of students; some interested in specific professions with children and others because of a more general appeal. For example, Smith joined the program knowing she wanted to become a teacher one day.

Although, Smith said what makes the program so successful is that there are “people who want to be in business, people who want to go into art, and they each bring their own special talents to the children and make the program stronger.”

At the beginning of the course, each student is assigned a child to work closely with; immediately, the children begin to look up to the students. “The big kids are like rock stars to the little ones,” McClary said.

The program is a true bonding experience between the big and little kids, as they grow extremely close over the year.

“It’s the little things that are so special, like getting the one-on-one time reading with them, or walking with them to a special activity,” Smith said.

Sometimes there is such a strong emotional attachment that the “big kid” will cry at the end of the year.  There is even a bond between the parents of the children and the students; Often students end up babysitting their preschooler.

Child Study is evolving into more then a class, and turning into its own community within the Staples community.