Imagine a room full of kindergartners practicing yoga in silence.
While this may seem far-fetched, this is exactly what is happening at Reeths-Puffer’s Pennsylvania Elementary School, where a new pilot program with Winter Sun Schoolhouse was started this year.
Steve Edwards, Reeths-Puffer Superintendent, started the presentation by stating that the Pennsylvania Elementary/Winter Sun Pilot Program, or “Penn Pilot”, has been a great thing for the district.
“We were really excited at the opportunity to pilot some new programs,” Edwards said.
Pennsylvania Elementary School, located in Laketon Township, was closed about six years ago after budget cuts. The school re-opened for the program in fall 2012.
New programs the school has incorporated into the curriculum include yoga and art twice a week and music three times a week, as well as a garden and a whole foods menu.
Jami Young, Winter Sun founder and director, gave the Reeths-Puffer school board an overview of how the program has been doing.
“The school board took a big risk for the pilot program, and we’ve created an amazing learning environment,” Young said.
The students have learned to recycle, and according to Young, have even brought the idea home to their parents. Last year, students participated in ArtPrize 2012, where they used recycled materials to create a hot air balloon, and sang songs about the environment.
Students can purchase lunch at school, which is catered by Mia & Grace, a Muskegon-based restaurant that focuses on a farm-to-table philosophy.
Young told the group that as a mom, she understands that sometimes it is just easier to send her child to school with an unhealthy pre-packaged meal because it is convenient, but with Mia & Grace offering lunches, it helps tremendously.
The school currently has two kindergarten courses, the “quest” program and the “adventure” program. Both of the programs work with the Whole c.h.i.l.d.r.e.n.s Curriculum, which aims to integrate the head, heart and hand of each child, approaching them as individual, emergent learners and recognizing in each of them their inherent learning style. The classes also work with the Common Core curriculum, which has been adopted statewide.
Having two kindergarten programs allows students who need to stay another year the ability to do so, and to learn different things, as each classroom has its own unique curriculum.
Pennsylvania Elementary School will start a butterfly garden in the spring, and hope to build a greenhouse, so it can grow and use its own produce all year round. The school was asked if it would create a first grade program, but it “gracefully declined,” said Young. Their focus is on its current program and how to make it better.
“The kids feel important, and that they have hands that are powerful,” Young said.
R-P Board President Kim Kelly commended Young on her work with Pennsylvania Elementary and its students.
“I have heard a lot of great things from the community,” Kelly said.