Preschoolers and teenagers learn from each other at North High School

In a few weeks, 12 preschoolers will join high school students in the hallways of North High.

Thanks to a program through the school, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8:25 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., North High students will teach and observe preschool-age children for a unit in their Child Development I class, taught by Kate Liden.

"My high school classroom turns into a preschool for three hours a day and then back again!" Liden says.

Liden explains that the preschool program functions as a lab in a three-part series of classes through the Family and Consumer Sciences department. Students begin in Parenting Issues, which details the responsibilities of parenting and infant development. The next class, which uses the preschool program, is Child Development I, where sophomore, junior and senior students learn about preschool-age development. Finally, in Child Development II, students focus on school-age development and do a similar observation and teaching program in a local elementary school.

This free program has been offered for at least ten years at North High School, Liden said. "We've been running it at least as long as I've been teaching here."

In groups of three or four, high school students will teach, observe and prepare lesson plans. "When they're not teaching, they're preparing lesson plans, and when they're not doing that they're either observing the preschoolers or watching videos of themselves teaching," Liden said.

Students will begin the sessions by bringing the preschoolers together to talk about the days of the week, weather, and other daily topics. Weekly themes include art, stories, science, math, movement and dramatic play. Perhaps most demanding: the high-school students have to make sure their lessons stay on topic, so their colleagues' lesson plans fit in. "It's pretty particular. We all have to be on the same page or it'll get messy," Liden says.

Many of the children enrolled in the program are first-time preschool students who also learn from being in their first classroom setting. "Parents have said it was helpful in the transition to 'real' preschool."

That makes the six-week unit "a win-win" for both parties. "The preschoolers get a lot out of it, but the benefit for my students is that they will be better parents someday, even if they don't work with kids as a career," Liden says.

For the high schoolers, this program offers an important opportunity to experience what it's like to be a teacher. "Many of my students have never taught before. Almost all of my students come in with experience with this age group but never a group or in a classroom setting," Liden explains.

Liden says many high schoolers find this program beneficial for making decisions regarding their future careers. "After this program, some of my students might say, 'I love kids but I don't want to teach.' But I've also had quite a few former students in teaching programs email me or call me and say 'Thank you for this experience; it was so helpful.'"

Liden enjoys seeing the preschoolers interact with her high schoolers.

"It's really great to have preschoolers at the high school. Students are always interested in what's going on with the kids. They just bring such an awesome spirit and energy."

Registration for this session has closed, but parents interested in enrolling their children next year should contact Kate Liden at KLiden@isd622.org.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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