The Christian preschool at The Rock church on Vista Boulevard opened its doors to 62 anxious learners between the ages of 2 and 5 earlier this year. Today it will hold graduation ceremonies for its inaugural class.
Center director Terri Richmer looked on Friday as the little fingers swirled in gobs of paint, creating spirals and swirls.
“We don’t want them to feel like this is school,” Richmer said. “What we do is very hands on.”
The curriculum for the preschoolers follows a path of self-learning and hands-on discovery. Whether part time or full time, the preschooler’s day begins with some free-play time.
“They can look at the seeds or play with the building blocks or Play Dough,” Richmer said. “With the blocks they are really learning fractions, that one-half plus one-half makes a whole, or cause and effect: If you bump it, it will fall down.”
The children may think that they are playing, but Richmer knows better.
Following the free-play time, the children sing and pray and get their wiggles out, Richmer said. Then they separate into groups for age-targeted learning.
The 2- to 3-year olds form one group, the 3- to 4-year-olds form another group and the 4- to 5-year-olds venture off into their own group.
The goal of the program, according to Richmer, is to provide an academic and social education with a Christian background.
The ratio of children who are part of the regular congregation to those who do not attend the church is about a 40/60 split, Richmer said.
“(The parents) want their kids to get the good morals but they sometimes don’t feel comfortable teaching those things themselves,” Richmer said.
The overarching difference between Pebbles Preschool and any other preschool is the Christian focus, cultivating religion in academic education.
“We don’t have any limitations here,” Richmer said. “We can hang crosses on the walls (if a child draws a picture of one) or the kids can pray before their meals.”
The school’s self-proclaimed goal is to “provide a Christian-based education in a safe, nurturing and loving environment.”
In addition to the preschool, the church will be launching kindergarten classes starting Aug. 22. The classes will be taught by state-certified teachers, adhere to Washoe County curriculum guidelines and follow a traditional school year calendar.
“The goal is to have them reading and writing by the time they leave,” program director Nicki Perkins said.
Ashli Sehorn, 5, is one of the children who will be entering the kindergarten in the fall. The girl with the wavy brown hair had just left her classroom Friday and was excited about Father’s Day. The class had just made gifts for their fathers.
“We get to learn and do music and we do a calendar,” the little girl said.
The kindergarten will offer full day care, with classes between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and before and after care available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The school will be offering two kindergarten classes with class sizes between 15 and 18 students per class.
“We will offer smaller class sizes, Christian-based education and more time learning,” Perkins said.