Carl Sandburg’s big and little eagles learning together

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Vazquez-Gutierrez

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Vazquez-Gutierrez

Alexandra Vazquez-Gutierrez, Staff Reporter

Linked classrooms with a double purpose: S166 and S167. S166: Mrs. Angel’s classroom for the past 24 years. S167: the home of the Little Eagles, ages varying from three to five.

Many people, Sandburg staff and students included, don’t know that there is a preschool inside of Sandburg, but it is considered by many a special aspect of the school.

The courses that work with the preschool are Child Development and Early Childhood Education, commonly referred to as ECE. Child Development is a one semester long course that teaches high school students of all grade levels about child development from birth through around the age of five while also having students immerse in the learning by working with real preschoolers that attend Carl Sandburg Preschool. Preschool for this program happens regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays during 6th and 7th hour.

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Vazquez-Gutierrez

The preschoolers for this program are usually three and four years old as they are in their first year of preschool. In preparation for the preschoolers, students create lesson plans, prepare them, teach them in groups, and observe children from the observatory room in a rotating pattern that switches weekly; in a full class, each group gets to teach approximately twice in a semester.

An ideal group is composed of four people, with two teachers teaching a day based on a specific category of learning such as story, craft, game, or music. Kids attending preschool get a diverse day varying in activities because everyone does an activity of a different category within a day, even across class periods.

As time moves forward, the rotations are smoother and preschoolers learn to listen and adjust to the constant change of setting. At the end of a semester, students who were thrilled with their experience in Child Development may consider taking the next course of this series: Early Childhood Education.

This class goes more in depth with teaching and planning elaborate school days rather than focusing on traditional coursework, and has an additional school day on Fridays to further prepare kids for kindergarten and high school students for a potential career. Many times the children are returnees from the year prior. Kids in this program also learn more about fundamental school topics to set them up for success in elementary school. 

Four-year-old Mary is in her second year at preschool and shares that she really enjoys it. She tells about learning letters during circle time and playing with her friends and cousin during preschool. “I love to cook and play with playdough,” she says, but that is only part of what she has experienced in preschool. Mrs. Angel says, “Preschool days are hectic but fun, and there are so many moving parts!”

Altogether this lesser known  class has a lot to offer, one of the most important factor of this program, according to students and Mrs. Angel herself, is the relationships that are established between the high school and preschool students. At the beginning of each course term, students are paired with a preschool student to be their “buddy.” The buddy role establishes a direct connection between both sets of students and adds to the class’s experience.

When asked what her favorite part of teaching this class for so long was, Mrs. Angel said, “my favorite part is honestly getting to see you guys get excited about working with kids and seeing their preschoolers’ faces light up when they see their high school buddies each day,” she also adds, “my students and little eagles create quite a bond throughout the year.”

Each year, approximately 80 students take a class associated with the preschool, and it is something that many students use as a distraction and break from the rigorous classes they take.

Mrs. Angel says “anyone can take my classes, especially if you plan to work with kids in the future. Even if you’re looking for a fun elective where you’re not just sitting at your desk for 50 minutes, come try my class and have fun and bond with a preschool buddy!”