AP NEWS

Math brings local preschool families together

March 16, 2019

Peterson Elementary preschoolers counted colorful beads in an attempted 3-1-4 pattern to make bracelets, hopped along numbered construction paper lily pads, rolled dice and divided Play-Doh in celebration of math literacy and Pi Day.

While Pi Day is an opportunity for math enthusiasts to celebrate, it also wouldn’t be complete with pie.

In the preschool classroom, students busied themselves counting out raspberries and blueberries, which they dropped onto whipped cream-covered pudding contained in miniature graham cracker crusts.

The PreK Pi(e) day, organized by preschool parents and staff, was held at Peterson on Wednesday and on Thursday at Russell Elementary. Parents, grandparents and siblings were invited to share in the event.

The event illustrated the important role of parental involvement in a child’s education,, according to Mary Buenz who is the preschool family engagement coordinator for Kalispell Public Schools.

“I feel one of the things most important to me as part of this program is parents start to really appreciate their importance and being a partner in their child’s education. I don’t think they realize how important they are. They are the key to their child being successful.”

Preschool teacher Angie Gascon noted, “We’re trying to really develop the philosophy that the teacher, the parent and the child, we all work together as a team to work for the betterment of the child,” Gascon said.

At Peterson, preschoolers rotated through different stations led by Flathead High School Early Childhood Education 2 students.

Parents Ryan and Kayla McCoy watched on as their daughter, preschooler Skylee, and her younger brother Bentley made the petite desserts.

They decided to enroll their daughter in preschool to prepare her for kindergarten. The preschool program uses a curriculum focused on helping children develop social and emotional skills through directed instruction - such as songs - and free play.

“She’s definitely progressed a lot through the year,” Ryan McCoy.

Flathead senior Abigail Brooks helped Bentley McCoy pick a berry when he reached into the raspberries.

“Patience,” Ryan McCoy said.

As quickly as Bentley popped a raspberry into his mouth, he spit it out, his face puckering at the tart flavor. Ryan McCoy and Brooks laughed.

“Which one do you want next? You want some blueberries,” Brooks asked.

As he picked up a blueberry, Kayla McCoy counted, “One, two...”

The McCoys hope a preschool program will be available in the school district by the time their son turns 4. So did preschooler Carter Johnson’s mother, Brittney, who brought her youngest daughter to the event.

“For us it was really the social part - making friends and just getting the structure of school,” Johnson said about enrolling her children in preschool.

“And just learning. When he starts kindergarten he’s going to know his letters, he can make sounds, he can count, he knows his numbers,” Johnson said. “It’s really prepping him for school.”

The preschool program for 4-year-olds is funded through a Montana Preschool Development Grant through the Department of Education. This is the third and final year of the grant.

What the grant allowed the program to do is extend income eligibility requirements for families who may be above poverty levels, but cannot afford a tuition-based preschool. Buenz said this is a huge segment of the population.

The preschool, which started with a classroom of about 18 students, now serves 54 in three classrooms and there’s a waiting list, according to Buenz.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.