Northwest NEWS

June 1, 1998

Valley Special

Headstart 'alive with learning opportunities'

  by Fred McCarthy
Riverview Executive Director of Human Resources and Curriculum

   The mural on the outside of the double-sized modular classroom depicts children holding hands in a circle around a tree, with the sun shining and a puffy white cloud in the foreground. Riverview Headstart is announced in large, stylized letters. Just inside the door is a paper map with the theme of the program, "It's a small world." Gregor is a man whom the children greet and who comes regularly to volunteer and share this experience with his daughter. He tells me the children have grown significantly since the beginning of the year.
   Today's circle time involves counting and graphing the students who are wearing green, an appropriate activity for March 17. Next, the teacher, "Ms. Viv," enthusiastically reads the time-honored classic "Green Eggs and Ham." Sheryl, the cook, has prepared green scrambled eggs, ham, applesauce and juice. "I'm not eating green eggs," proclaims one student. However, all soon are engaged on a rotating schedule in enjoying today's snack. Julia has been an educational assistant in the program since it began 16 years ago. She is both the institutional history teacher and the link with the future. She helps out in many ways. The children love her.
   Terry is the family advocate. She helps people solve problems: clothes for students, food for the family, help with agencies that support young families. This classroom is literally alive with learning opportunities. Food to eat, paint to paint, live walking sticks in the terrarium, finches in the bird cage, guinea pigs in their box, plants and flowers. People here are in love with life and share that love each day with the students.
   Some of these children have special needs and are part of a blended program. Aside from the one in the wheelchair, as a visitor I am not able to tell who the others are...a compliment to their dedicated teacher Diane.
   Aisha helps a student put the dirty dishes in the right plastic bin. Teri follows her charge as he moves from activity to activity soaking up learning like a thirsty sponge. In a separate room, Barbara, Early Child Specialist, tests children on their language and motor skills. Rockets and stars decorate the ceiling. Budding paleontologists uncover fossils in the sand table. This is an exciting place for learning.