Category Archives: Preschools

Another fun factchecking find

A cute video we found as we pushed to factcheck and finish the 2012 Schools, etc. education guide, which is due to the printer on Friday. It was on the home page for Tempe Christian Preschool:


High school with a preschool

I was at Apollo High School in Glendale shooting photos for the 2012 Schools, etc. directory yesterday. Something I haven’t seen at a high school before is a preschool. The Apollo Preschool Coop (Child Oriented Occupational Program)  was colorful and chock full of things preschool kids like. No, it isn’t for the kids of high school students. It’s a state-certified daycare center open to the public.

Apollo High School students in the preschool.

Apollo students work in the preschool, closely supervised by certified teachers, after they take the prerequisite year-long childhood development class. It gives the high school students a sense of whether or not they want to be teachers. They also get dual-credit with Glendale Community College.

Jonette Grosse, executive director of the preschool, told me that some of the guys that work in the preschool are interested in being better fathers when they have kids, in addition to testing out the teaching career.

Emilly Oliveira (left) and Cindy Rascon teach about the rain forest.

I would think that, for high school kids who haven’t thought too far ahead, the experience might give them a sense of what it is like to care for a child — and certainly make them think twice about chancing a pregnancy. A stint in a preschool could tell high school kids they just might not be ready for a demanding 3-year-old of their own.

Brenda Vences teaches kids about trees.

Senior Emilly Oliveira wants to be a pediatrician. She will be at Grand Canyon University next year. Junior Brenda Vences says the challenge is to manage the preschoolers’ short attention spans. She was teaching the kids about how leaves grow on trees, change color, drop off and grow back the next year. Not an easy task to teach kids in Phoenix. But there was lots of colored paper and gluing to do, so soon enough Brenda would be managing a sticky mess.

Story and photos by Dan Friedman

Friday FUN photos from school: Festival Foothills Elementary

Second graders at the West Valley's Festival Foothills Elementary School meet Zion.

There were plenty of wide eyes and dropped jaws at Festival Foothills Elementary this week, as students enjoyed a visit from the Phoenix Zoo‘s Zoomobile.

Students in preschool through fifth grade participated in the zoo’s Predator and Prey Presentation, a chance to get up close and personal with the likes of snakes, scorpions and hedgehogs.

Face to face with Bernie the hedgehog.

Zookeeper Carrie Flood brought each creature around to meet the kids face to face. Students were asked to consider whether the species was predator or prey, based on its features. They decided Turbo the Turtle was prey and learned that Zion the king snake — a predator — eats rattlesnakes!

They met a cactus beetle and Bubbles, the whip scorpion. They learned that Bernie the hedgehog is a small but ferocious African predator who completely terrifies his prey.

Students “were very excited to have the Zoomobile visit this year,” says Principal Christina Strauss. “This is just another example of how Festival Foothills Elementary is providing exciting opportunities for its students despite tough economic times.”

Festival Foothills Elementary is a K-8 school located at  26252 W. Desert Vista Blvd. in Buckeye, 10 miles west of Surprise. It is part of the Wickenburg Unified School District.

Festival Foothills opened in January 2008 as a K-5 school, and has grown to include a preschool and middle school. One-third of the student population comes from neighboring communities through open enrollment.

The Phoenix Zoo offers two outreach programs, Zoomobile and Zoo to You, that align with Arizona Department of Education Academic Content Standards.

Want to see your school featured next Friday? Send your FUN photos to:

Zookeeper Carrie Flood shows Turbo the turtle to Anthony Morales.

Tesseract launches first senior class

Back-to-school time had added meaning for the Tesseract School’s seniors, who will be the first graduating class since the school expanded in 2008 to include a middle and upper school campus.

Tesseract’s seniors will start the year with their “All Work and All Play College Prep Retreat,” hosted by Prescott College. During the retreat students will participate in events designed to strengthen their senior-class bond and guide them through some final steps in the college admissions process, such as writing college essays, refining résumés, checking the status of college applications and continuing to work toward their senior-year goals.

“Being part of the inaugural high school class has been a powerful experience, especially looking back and seeing all we have accomplished,” said Sam Anderson, a 12th grader who has attended Tesseract since preschool. “During my entire experience at Tesseract I have learned what it means to truly be a part of, and participate in, a unique and caring community with an amazing global perspective.”

“It is a wonderful experience to see the board’s vision of offering a preschool through 12th-grade program come to fruition,” said Nigel Taplin, head of school. He credited trustees, parents, donors, volunteers, faculty and staff for seeing that vision through.

Tesseract has been educating Valley students in preschool through eighth grade since 1988. The high school was part of the school’s strategic plan and a response to Tesseract families wishing the school’s innovative curriculum and student-centered approach could extend through high school.

In early 2007, the capital campaign to raise funds to build a new campus for Tesseract’s middle school and the new high school was launched and Chris LaBonte, Tesseract’s founding director of high school, was brought on board to lead the high school and develop a curriculum that was a natural extension of the school’s mission and philosophy to prepare students for the challenges of a more interconnected and complex world.

“It has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience to be involved from the ground up in developing a high school program for Tesseract,” said LaBonte. “Tesseract has such a strong curricular foundation; we all wanted to create a rich, deep program that further promoted the development of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking, as well as prepared students to excel in college and beyond, in a thoughtful and meaningful way that the students could truly connect with as individuals.”

Tesseract School is a non-profit, independent private school for students in preschool through grade 12. Campuses are located in Phoenix and Paradise Valley. 480-991-1770 or

High stakes for kindergarteners, crucial info for parents

A new law approved in 2010 by the Arizona State Legislature will raise the bar for this year’s kindergarteners when they reach the third grade. The law mandates that students who have not met the standard reading level by the end of third grade will be held back to repeat the grade.

According to First Things First, an organization that aims to help parents prepare their young children (ages 0-5) for school, there is plenty that parents can do at home to set their children up for success in kindergarten and throughout their lives.

On the organization’s resource website,, parents can find tip sheets to help guide them through caring for their children at the various ages and stages of their early development, and learn how best to prepare kids for entering kindergarten.

Consistent talking, reading and explorative play is extremely important during early childhood, says Jolene Mutchler, a preschool teacher and member of the First Things First Central Pima Regional Partnership Council.

The first five years of life serve as the foundation for future learning and development, and students who begin school behind the standards typically stay there, research shows. That’s why it is so important to begin preparing kids early, providing them with positive learning environments, both in and out of the home, Mutchler says.

For more information, including tips for promoting early childhood learning development, visit

Choosing a quality childcare environment

The task of choosing a quality childcare environment for a child can be overwhelming, especially to first-time parents. Expect More Arizona and Phoenix Day have put together a short video that provides a quick and visual summary of the key components you should seek.

Expect More Arizona is a public-private partnership dedicated to creating a movement of Arizonans who value education as our state’s top priority and are actively engaged in strengthening the entire education continuum – from birth to career.

Phoenix Day, is Arizona’s oldest early education and childcare center. It was established in 1915 to provide a safe, nurturing and diverse environment with age-appropriate curriculum that promotes a lifetime of learning.

Summer reading, turned adventure

Linda McFayden, reading director at New Vistas School, helps a young reader meet her summer reading goal.

Encouraging your kids to keep reading over the summer is so important for maintaining their reading proficiency, and it doesn’t have to be a struggle. With a little creativity, it can even be fun!

New Vistas Center for Education, a Chandler private school for children from preschool through high school,  has developed a special program that turns summer reading from a chore into a game, complete with a theme, goals and rewards.

Linda McFadyen, reading director at New Vistas, developed the “Book a Trip – Ticket to Read” program to engage preschool through grade school readers by encouraging them to log their reading hours and achieve their goals.

Preschool through second grade students strive to log 300 hours of reading over the course of the summer, while third through sixth grade students must reach or exceed 600 hours. At the start of the school year, McFayden plans to distribute awards to recognize students who complete their reading goals.

McFayden also organized an accountability system called “Check and Chat,” through which students have the opportunity to come in to three sessions throughout the summer, which serve as check points to keep students on track.

The program at New Vistas is inspired by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, which provided the reading list from which New Vistas students have made their summer selections in subjects ranging from mystery to mathematics.

McFayden says parents have been instrumental in facilitating the reading program, coming up with creative ways to keep books accessible and fun for their young readers. Some have begun to keep books in the family car, developed their own special incentives for meeting reading goals and organized neighborhood book clubs.

You can inspire your own young reader in similar ways, developing curiosity, vocabulary and confidence. Just get creative, and read for fun with your child this summer! — Sadie Smeck

RAK Archives
Find links to summer reading programs at Valley libraries.