Family environment encouraged at Palo Alto College luncheon with children

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By Adriana F. DeLeon

Loud noises caused by children playing with wooden blocks, dolls, toy trucks and stuffed animals filled a luncheon Nov. 16 for faculty and families enrolled in the Ray Ellison Family Center at Palo Alto College.

“I think it’s very necessary to build a relationship between the family and our staff here, and form that partnership,” Kelly Kring, coordinator of the Ray Ellison Family Center, said.

As the kids continued to play, the parents sat at the table, eating and socializing.

A glance around the room showed a series of parents admiring their child at play with classmates.

Bilingual education sophomore Lorena Cantu has a son enrolled in the center.

Gerardo Cantu Jr., 3, likes to draw, read and play with the stuffed animals, Cantu said while Gerardo played with toy trucks.

“I love it (the center) because he used to go to another day care center, and it was very different,” she said.

The previous day care center her son attended would assign worksheets to the preschoolers to complete and this center provides education using “hands-on experience,” she said.

An example is how the center promotes the five senses, sight, taste, hearing, touch and smell. At the sensory table, teachers display objects depending on the day’s theme, for each child to finger and feel the texture.

The children also bake and mix ingredients together to learn different kinds of foods, she said.

A small library is in the corner of the room where children can sit and read books, or sometimes the teacher will gather all children in a circle to read to them.

Social skills are also taught, preschool teacher Trina Jimenez said.

For example Kevin Cartagena, 4, was trying to build a cage for a stuffed dog, but the cage was too small for it. Matthew Cartright, 4, wanted to place his stuffed animal in the small cage instead.

Kevin started to cry and fuss because he wanted the cage for his dog, but Jimenez explained to Kevin that he needed a bigger cage and eventually Kevin completed building his big cage.

“The children are learning sizes and how to compromise,” Jimenez said.

Nursing sophomore Patricia Rangel has her daughter Mikayla Swope, 3, enrolled in the center.

Each child is given a mailbox outside the classroom for faculty to provide newsletters for families, Rangel said. The center is great at communicating to all parents about what the children are learning, playing and lacking.

“They interact with the parents a lot,” she said.

The center keeps parents involved by hosting an event every month, center teacher Jo Ann Rodriguez said.

“We believe highly in uniting our families together. Without families, we wouldn’t be able to run our center,” she said.

Parents who are involved in their children’s lives help the child master better educational skills because of positive family support, Jimenez said.

“We had about 90 percent parent participation,” she said.

It is a great atmosphere for the children who are in the center eight hours a day, and inviting parents makes the center more family-oriented, Kring said.

All parents that attended signed thank you note cards for the center and taped them on the wall near the main entrance.

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