Wareham Integrated Preschool introduces new curriculum
Ollie the Owl is opening up a new world of learning at Wareham Integrated Preschool.
Ollie, a stuffed toy owl, is the plush, wide-eyed mascot of the preschool's new universal curriculum, OWL.
The curriculum (which stands for "Opening the World of Learning"), is a model developed by Pearson. The Pearson website explains that the curriculum is “designed to develop oral language and early literacy skills for pre-K children.”
The stuffed animal swoops in during literary circle to ask a question of the week. The question always has to do with a theme that the preschool is studying. Past themes have included jungle and desert; community helpers; the farm; and earth and sky.
Minot Forest Elementary Assistant Principal Denise Tobin stressed that the curriculum helps “build and increase student vocabulary,” which she noted was invaluable for later standardized testing.
Ollie currently has 102 student friends in the preschool program. A further 51 referrals are waiting to meet with him. The program integrates "peer models," preschool students without learning disabilities, and special education students.
The theme is also spread into other areas of preschool learning and even playtime. Students playing with the veterinary center in one classroom suddenly found themselves with a host of jungle and desert animals to care for during the “From Jungle to Desert” theme.
Tobin explained that many of the classes create vocabulary lists based off of the themes. “They sit down in literary circles at the beginning, and list all the words they know about that topic. They continue to add to the list as they learn.”
Committee member Geoff Swett praised the curriculum. “It looks amazing. I think it’s exactly what our children need.”
Fellow committee member Mary Morgan asked Tobin and Special Education Director Beverly Shea how they managed to make a curriculum designed for five days fit into a schedule of two or three days per week. Preschoolers usually attend class no more than three days per week.
“It’s tricky,” Tobin admitted. “In an ideal world we’d have a curriculum designed for our space of time. But we make it work, and it’s been successful.”