The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Progress 2014

March 15, 2014

Providing a little boost of self-esteem

Young and old benefit from EPS’ intergenerational pre-k program

ENID, Okla. — On a recent Monday, 16 pre-kindergarteners did exercises with residents of Greenbrier Village’s nursing facility as part of their day at intergenerational pre-kindergarten.

Resident Carleen Mack sat in her chair and exercised along with the kids. Mose Hartfield, George Waters, Virginia Vail, Cecil Handley and Bim Jones smiled as they watched the youngsters follow Rheadonna Howard, activity director, while she paced them through the exercise routine.

The children’s classroom is located in Greenbrier Village’s assisted living center, but the little students also interact with residents of the nursing facility on the Greenbrier campus.

“They’ll sit here and watch them more than they’ll do the exercises themselves, and after they leave, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I wish I had their energy,’” Howard said.

Tracey Laymon, pre-kindergarten teacher, said 20 are enrolled in the all-day program.

When the exercise routine was finished, Laymon told the little students, “Go love on the grandmas and grandpas.”

The 4-year-olds went down the line of seniors and hugged each in turn before lining up to leave the nursing home and return to the assisted living center. The seniors gazed lovingly at them.

“They just don’t see anything wrong,” said Chris Smith, director of Enid Public Schools’ early childhood program. “They walk over and pat their feet. A lot of adults would walk away.”

The classroom used to be inside the nursing home at Greenbrier Village, and now the children visit the nursing home Mondays and Wednesdays, Smith said.

The interaction between the little ones and the seniors is a positive thing for both groups, Smith said.

“The kids are so attentive to the residents, and the residents are so attentive to their kids,” Smith said. “It boosts both of their self-esteem.”

According to Greenbrier Village’s website, the classroom is set up so assisted living residents can view the kids’ activities throughout the day. A playground is located just north of the school’s entrance.

Some of the assisted living center residents volunteer their time helping the students learn.

The Commons also has an intergenerational preschool with 20 enrolled.

The program at the Commons launched for the 2009-10 school year and the program at Greenbrier began one year later, Smith said.

Smith said the school district would be glad to begin intergenerational 4-year-old programs in additional retirement centers.

“Enid Public Schools is always looking for partnerships and collaborations that will help us expand our 4-year-old program to make room for every 4-year-old who wants to enroll,” Smith said.

All the 4-year-old programs, including the 24 located in elementary schools across the district, are full-day programs. Each elementary school has at least one prekindergarten classroom, Smith said.

“It is public school, so there’s no fee,” Smith said. “We’re the best deal on the planet. I look at it as a gift that Enid Public Schools chooses to give the community. We believe in the power of educating children early.”

Prekindergarten enrollment for the 2014-15 school year will be 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 24 at the Commons and Greenbrier and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 25 at district elementary schools.

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