"A...B...C...D...E...F...," Remember when learning the alphabet was the hardest part of your day' From an adult perspective, it seems like a simple thing. But when you're 3 or 4 it's just one more thing to learn in a big world that should be less intimidating to understand and a whole lot more fun.

That's why Fort Polk's Child, Youth and School Services Part day Preschool Program reopened Jan. 5 at the Siegfried Youth Center. The program had been closed since October due to flooding at the Child Development Center and pending completion of a new facility located at 7575 Colorado Ave., bldg 701.

"We had so many parents requesting to get back into part day preschool. We decided to bring it over here to Siegfried and reopen until the new building is finished," said John Stromberg, facility director for the new Child Development Center.

The littlest victims of the flood are probably the ones that handled the chaos best. Stromberg said he has no doubt about the children's resiliency.
"They don't care where part day preschool is. As long as they get to see their friends and teachers and are having fun, it wouldn't matter if we were in someone's backyard. They just love it," said Stromberg.

The program, for children 3-5, runs daily from 8:15-11:15 a.m. It follows the Vernon Parish school calendar, so when the school age children are off for the day, so is part day preschool. The program offers two sessions: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Tuesdays and Thursdays. "Some parents do one or the other session and some do both," said Stromberg.
Part day preschool allows parents to give their children classroom time to build socialization and educational skills they will need to get them ready for kindergarten, said Stromberg

"We follow a curriculum and lesson plans. In fact, the Army has adopted a new curriculum for our preschool programs called 'Strong Beginnings' that helps focus on getting the kids ready for school," Stromberg said.

"We tie all kinds of fun games and activities together that revolve around learning to read, write, listen, share and play with their friends. That way the kids don't even know that they are learning because they're having fun at the same time."

Dorothy Massey, lead program education technician for the part day preschool program, described what children learn.
"Most of what we do is from our creative curriculum, which promotes creativity, independence and imagination," Massey said. "It makes learning fun. We try to follow the same curriculum as do the schools. When they get to school the skills needed for success are already in place."

Stromberg praised what Massey and her assistants, Chris Krygowski and Kerstin Edwards, do with the children.
"We have a great staff. They help the children progress, no matter their developmental stage, so that we can get them ready to go to kindergarten," he said.

Alex Rockwood, 4, a part day preschool student is proud of everything he has learned. "I already know my ABCs and numbers. My favorite things to do here are play with blocks and show people the things I make," said Rockwood.

The part day preschool staff has created different activity centers in the Siegfried gym so kids have a choice. Centers involve learning to put puzzles together, engaging in dramatic play, doing crafts, playing with blocks and even running off some energy by playing basketball. Asha Sheikh, 4, said she likes the choices. "I get to do a lot of fun things. My favorite thing to do is play basketball," said Sheikh.

Parents can also reap rewards from part day preschool.
"We have parents who get their shopping done, visit the doctor's office, do their hair or have their work-out time at the gym while their kids are at preschool," said Stromberg.
For Massey, the rewards of the program are numerous -- and not just for the kids.

"This job is more than just a paycheck to me. You have to be here for more than that. You have to love these kids to be here every day. These children are truly a blessing. They are fun, energetic, creative and keep me young," Massey said.
If you are interested in learning more about part day preschool or registering your child in the program, call 531-1992.