Good Fruit Grower

October 2012

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Page 11 of 47 T o see a video of the preschool, go to the home page of our Web site at GROWING great learners W A new preschool at Royal City, Washington, helps cultivate good students. by David Goehner ashington Fruit and Produce Com- pany, one of Washington's top tree fruit producers, is seeing success in a new type of cultivation: helping the young children of some of its employees be better prepared to succeed at school. Washington Fruit helped create the Growing Great Learners program in 2010 to serve preschool- aged children in Royal City, Washington, the home of Many of the approximately 60 children in the pro- gram are from families employed by Washington Fruit. "I saw young children playing around the rural parts of the community and found there wasn't much of a preschool program available for most of them," said Washington Fruit Vice President and Farm Manager Cliff Plath. He believed there needed to be a plan to help get them started in their had, Plath approached the offices of Yakima's Educational Service District—just a few blocks down the street from Washington Fruit's main facilities— with his interest in supporting the start-up of a pre- school at Royal City. After the ESD connected Plath with the Royal School District in 2009, educators from both sites developed a plan to launch a pre- school and to develop lesson plans that day-care providers could use. The instructional materials are designed to flow into what students will learn when they enter the regular Royal City school system. Washington Fruit funds bus transportation for the students, wages for their teachers, food for breakfasts and lunches, and equipment such as books and furniture, at no costs to the parents. Funds also support the assistance of staff from Yakima's ESD 105 to provide curriculum training and monitor the children's learning progress. Homework Two different groups of children attend preschool in the basement of Royal City's Methodist church for two full days each week during the school year. A summer program was added this year. Activities include handwriting, counting, housekeeping, sci- ence, art, reading, and music. The children also learn to obey teacher instructions and develop social skills. "These are the skills they need for kindergarten," says Jeannie Enriquez, the preschool director for Growing Great Learners. "The parents participate a lot with us, because we send the kids home with homework, like practice pages with what we're doing during the day. And, if we don't send home- work, the parents call us and tell us they didn't get homework." Carolyn Bunch, Royal School District's grants manager, said that before the program existed, kindergarteners began their education with some big hurdles, but that has changed. "Our kinder- garten teachers now know our preschoolers will be coming in with many more skills than what they're used to seeing," she said. "The kids are not going to begin school with a deficit, and that's a huge thing." ESD 105 Early Learning Programs Director many of the people who work in the company's thousands of acres of apple orchards on the Royal Slope and Frenchman Hills. The program enrolls children who are likely to have the greatest chal- lenges in learning the basic skills needed to be pre- pared for kindergarten, first grade, and beyond. 12 OCTOBER 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER education and thought that the whole program from kindergarten though 12th grade could benefit from helping preschoolers be better prepared. The Royal School District had the same concerns. Hoping to provide a way for those children to have the same opportunities that his own children Cynthia Juarez said that because the preschool pro- gram is getting children to achieve higher levels of learning, the teachers need to make some adjust- ments to their curriculum. "They're increasing the quality of instruction that's happening in those classrooms. When that happens, it has that domino effect to the next level."

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