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Park district starts anew with Discovery Preschool 

 

The older kids have returned to the classroom. Now it’s time for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds to join the ranks of preschool students at Discovery Preschool at the Irwin Community Center, 18120 Highland Ave. in Homewood.

The program is run by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and offers morning and afternoon classes for children who will be 2 by Sept. 1, 2021; 3 by Sept. 1 or by Dec. 31, 2021; and 4 by Sept. 1.

Devin Frendreis sets up toys in Discovery Preschool at the Irwin Center. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Devin Frendreis, the new recreation supervisor overseeing preschool, said the new name to Discovery really speaks to what teachers and aides expect the program to be – a way for young children to discover the world around them through play.

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“The most important thing is to learn through play. Every station is hands on with a teacher at your level playing with you,” Frendreis said. “Preschool is the most important. It sets the foundation. It’s truly what drives your different interests. It helps with socialization. We’re looking for discovery and new beginnings.”

Frendreis understands parents have concerns about safety, especially during a pandemic. She said Discovery Preschool will follow all safety guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education and all children will wear masks. Enrollment is limited to give kids enough space to play safely and gather for small group activities.

The play areas will rotate out toys as topics change. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The rooms at Irwin Center have been updated to give a welcoming, airy feel. Walls are brightly painted, and Frendreis has set desks, chairs and shelving to make play stations for specific activities, such as music and motion, while still giving children space to move around. The old tables for 5 or 6 children working together have been replaced by individual tables.

The day will begin with a group meeting followed by lessons around the letter and the color of the week. Teachers also will be teaching basic sign language – words like please, thank you, louder, etc. Frendreis said sign language is meant not only as part of the curriculum but also a way to help with communication should a child struggle projecting through a mask.  

Lessons will revolve around topics, such as going to the farm or grocery shopping. Frendreis said topics – and corresponding toys – will be switched out on a monthly or weekly basis. Each room will have two teachers and an aide.

Discovery Preschool officially starts Aug. 30 and 31. Frendreis said open enrollment continues, and she can address questions at [email protected]. Registration is being accepted on the park district’s website at hfparks.com or by calling 708-957-0300. Parents or guardians must present a child’s birth certificate. Tuition is by resident and non-resident rate and how many days a week a child attends Discovery Preschool.

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