SCOTTDALE – As the 4- and 5-year olds from Southmoreland Senior High’s Nursery School charged into the lobby area of the school for their Egg Hunt, their faces lit up, one by one, as they discovered a treasure-filled plastic egg to carry in their handmade “bunny bags.”
At the Egg Hunt, as well as in the classroom, it is apparent that SHS’s Nursery School is all about discovery.
The nursery school, held during the second semester, is staffed by “student teachers” from the child development classes at the high school.
Recent renovations at the high school have given nursery students in two sessions – held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. – an inviting classroom, including their own secure entry to class, “child-sized” furniture and bathroom and ample play area.
Student teachers have a small kitchen area to use to prepare snacks.
Teacher Susan Ansell says the class is designed to be a nursery school, not a preschool, although the student teachers do present lessons each day.
The student teachers prepare lessons that are fun as well as instructional. Some activities this spring included a trip to the computer lab, a lesson about policemen, and “footprint paintings,” as well as an introduction to the alphabet, counting, learning songs and writing names.
To prepare for the Egg Hunt, students learned the “bunny hop,” made their bunny bags, colored eggs and learned about rabbits.
Ansell says parents are encouraged to stay at nursery school until their children are comfortable and come to class to observe their children at work and play.
Parent Cindy Sebek says the class is beneficial to her son, Frank, 5.
“He’s the only child at home. He has an older sister in college. (In SHS nursery school) he’s getting used to other kids. And he’s learned to raise his hand and be quiet.”
Ansell says that skills such as waiting in line and sitting still in a classroom full of students are important for the nursery students as they prepare to enter kindergarten in the next year or two.
The student teachers from grades 10-12 make some important discoveries as well.
Ansell says the students in the Child Development Class learn health and safety procedures with children and the basics of child development.
For the first time, Southmoreland is offering an Advanced Child Development class to juniors and seniors this year.
Ansell says the classes can prepare students to work in a day care center, open a day care in their homes, or be better parents.
Junior Krystal Sanner says the class has been a good experience, especially since she is considering studying elementary education in college and possibly becoming a kindergarten or first-grade teacher.
She says a valuable lesson for her is seeing how a group of children interact.
Ansell says the class helps high school students make better decisions about careers involving children.
“Family structures are changing,” says Ansell. “Many students don’t have little (brothers or sisters) at home. It gives them a chance to be around kids.”
Sanner also enjoyed the class projects assigned in child development, such as a collage she made from photographs of each child in class or at play.
Students in SHS child development classes use their skills in a community service project, providing baby-sitting for Southmoreland PTA meetings.
Ansell is pleased with her student teachers. “I love the enthusiasm. I’d recommend them to work anywhere with children.”