(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Their teacher, Susan Ivie, roamed from learning center to learning center, explaining the day's activities on Thursday.
In remembrance of 9-11, two special centers were added to the learning environment: the fireman and police centers.
"Remember boys and girls, we when we play at the police center, we have one rule to remember. What is that rule?"
"No pointing the gun at anyone," a child cried.
"That's right," agreed Ivie, who is MOPP's director. "When we play police, we don't play shooting and guns. We don't point the guns at anyone."
With that reminder -- and in order of good listeners -- Ivie instructed children one by one to choose a center to play at. Centers include Quiet Area, Manipulatives Area, Science Center, Art Center, Block Center and House Center.
This structured learning environment is one of several reasons, MOPP received accreditation from the Missouri Accreditation for Childhood Care and Education Programs this summer after three years of working, reworking and working again by staff members of the Sikeston R-6 School District.
"A lot of people don't realize that children learn through playing," Ivie said.
Hands-on is a major issue with Missouri Accreditation as well as asking students open-ended questions, Ivie said.
"For example, instead of asking yes or no questions, I might ask, 'Who helped you make that shirt?' when I already know who helped them," Ivie explained.
Another aspect of the structured learning environment is positive reinforcement, Ivie said.
"Instead of saying, 'Don't run,' we say 'Let's use our walking feet,'" Ivie said.
According to Ivie, daycare accreditation is very difficult to receive.
"The time and amount we spent was unbelievable," Ivie said. "We had so much paperwork. We had to have documentation of everything.
She continued: "We worked on it and turned things in. Then we sent back paperwork the size of the three St. Louis phone books, and it was observed by a team of Missouri creditors. They would say what we we're doing right and wrong," Ivie explained.
Missouri Accreditation has more than 500 programs accredited or going through the accreditation process. Those who receive accreditation are the "best of the best -- the creme of the crop," Ivie said.
"We had a lot of hoops to jump through," noted Sharon Gunn, Sikeston R-6 assistant superintendent for special education and elementary.
Working on accreditation was a frustrating thing, but a wonderful thing, Gunn said. She said she wished more daycares were able to complete the process. Accreditation is a lot of work and a terribly difficult process to complete, she added.
"Achieving accreditation was a collaborative effort by many of Sikeston's staff, and everyone should be able to accomplish that," said Sikeston Kindergarten Center Principal Vera Glueck.
Funded by the Missouri Preschool Project grant -- and by private donations this year -- the Sikeston MOPP program serves 15 families, noted Ivie, who works together with her assistant Leslie Bryant. It's an all-day program beginning at 8:45 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
While anyone can test their children for the program, MOPP is geared toward a particular group.
"Many of my parents are in high school or were in high school and are now in college. Our goal is to help our parents stay in the education program or workforce," Ivie explained.
MOPP also gives the children a chance to be in a top-notch program to prepare for kindergarten, Ivie said.
"It's a hands-on program that allows the children to grow in many ways. It's not a sit-down-and-do-a-worksheet program. It's a program that works with high-needs children," And parental involvement is a must, Ivie added. "We offer so many night meetings and have an open-door policy for parents and even grandparents," she said.
Children are served breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and they take naps in the afternoon, Ivie said. Plus in addition to their regular daily routine, special activities include music, guest readers and speakers and field trips, she added.
Sikeston MOPP's accreditation is valid through May 2005. Upon that time, the preschool will have to be reviewed for accreditation again -- a process that shouldn't be as overwhelming as the initial accreditation -- and something Ivie would like to not think about for awhile.
"It was so hard," Ivie recalled. "I feel like I've gone through law school."