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Small school has big goals

Bethlehem Children's School adding pre-K in its 15th year

Teacher Emmy Cole in the pre-K and kindergarten classroom at the Bethlehem Children's School in Slingerlands. The school is celebrating its 15th year and is adding pre-K care in the fall. The Montessori school has always been small since its 1995 opening, but it's growing new areas in its curriculum.

Teacher Emmy Cole in the pre-K and kindergarten classroom at the Bethlehem Children's School in Slingerlands. The school is celebrating its 15th year and is adding pre-K care in the fall. The Montessori school has always been small since its 1995 opening, but it's growing new areas in its curriculum. Photo by Charles Wiff.

— A small private school nestled in Slingerlands is celebrating its 15th anniversary by growing and adding pre-K programming to its curriculum.

The Bethlehem Children's School, a Montessori school on Fisher Boulevard, is welcoming to its faculty Emmy Cole, who will be teaching the school's youngest learners. It's the latest development for this tight-knit school that's turned a former home into intimate, homey classrooms room by room over the years. Enrollment has never been above 34, but the school's Board of Directors is hoping it will increase with the addition of pre-K and kindergarten classes this fall.

“We want to stop being the hidden secret of Delmar,” said Julie Darling, president on the school's Board of Directors and a parent of one of the first children to be enrolled at the school when it opened in 1995.

Cole has been teaching for 13 years, the last six in a Montessori school. She's ecstatic to be broaching a whole new age group at the Children's School, and has already set up her classroom for an interactive, exploratory approach to learning.

“In this classroom, there will be a lot of hands-on work,” Cole said. “It becomes a very busy classroom, with the kids doing what interests them, with my guidance. I observe and I watch, and I even change materials based on what I might see the children doing.”

Students will focus on the core categories of education — language skills, math, science, etc. — but Cole plans to put a great focus on sensory experiences. For example, students might work with movable letters in learning the alphabet and simple words, so they can manipulate the objects themselves. Especially for small children, the motor skills to wield a pencil might not be there, but the curiosity is.

“They can start putting letters together for formation of that word, which of course leads to reading,” Cole said. “That's another theory, that working with the hands will help the brain retain that information.”

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