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Kids Crew a golden opportunity for youngsters

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Education column by Ron Benningfield

By Ron Benningfield

For Traci Peters, new director of Kids Crew, the opportunity to have children in the daycare there is a golden one for the youngsters to learn facets of education upon which they can build.

“We promote child-directed, hands-on activities for our students,” the Pennsylvania native said.

The 38 children enrolled at Kids Crew, located at the LaRue County Board of Education office in Hodgenville, take part in daily lessons that teach skills appropriate to their age level.

In the youngest class, for children ages two through five, teacher Shannon Penna last week was teaching fine motor skills by having them put their thumb prints on small pictures of apple trees as well as other activities.

“They also talked about the words ‘sweet’ and ‘tart’ which helps them build their vocabularies,” said Peters who holds Kentucky Early Care and Education Trainer as well as Kentucky Director credentials. She majored in early childhood education at Jefferson Community College where she earned an associate’s degree in 2004.

Penna also had her youngest students practicing creative art, meant to allow them choices in what they draw while learning how to create curves, circles, and straight lines.

“Teachers provide the children with the materials, like paper and crayons and encourage them to create their own art work,” said Peters. “The younger preschoolers mainly draw their work as a mixture of lines and circles; what we would call ‘scribbling’; however, some of the older preschoolers’ work show defined lines, circles, and other shapes.”

Teachers Matt Murray (kindergarten through second-grade) and Gena Baker (third through sixth grade) focus on social and emotional skills, problem solving, and working cooperatively.

Students have age-appropriate learning materials and sensory tables where they relax by running their fingers through “sand” (cornmeal in the K-2 room) as though they were playing in a sandbox.

The after-school students in grades three through six also are taught how to deal socially and emotionally with others.

“We have a problem solving bucket where they write their name, write about a concern they have and what they would do to solve it,” she said. “We talk about the best ways to solve problems including starting their conversation with

‘I feel (blank) when you (blank) because (blank),’” she said. 

Time is also allowed for these older students to delve into their homework.

Peters, who has been Kids Crew Director since Sept. 7, hails from Mackeyville near Penn State University. Her husband is a meteorologist for UPS and is a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard. They have three children – Jared 26, Kyle 25, and Joy 23, plus Bracken, a 3-month-old grandson.

Peters has worked in the educational field at a Department of Defense elementary school, a private preschool, and Oldham and Nelson county public schools.

“In my spare time, I provide training for early childhood professionals, orientation, and general workshops,” she said.