Whether a child has just turned 3 and completed toilet training or is almost 5 and approaching readiness for kindergarten, he/she can benefit greatly from the diverse activities and learning tools employed in pre-school programs. Most parents here in Garden City and throughout Nassau County enroll their preschool age children in privately run programs within churches or temples, schools like the Garden City Nursery School, etc., but many parents find that during the summer break their kids are often bored and could be spending their time more productively in a program designed to not only maintain the skills developed during the school year, but help advance those skills, and even benefit children who will be making the transition from preschool to kindergarten in the fall. Such a program was developed by Christine Trenkle, a 1988 Garden City High School graduate who is also a nursery school teacher at Community Church's Nursery School, with the Garden City Recreation Department. A preschool program of arts and crafts had been developed by Sandy Young and the Recreation Department, and Trenkle saw the need to expand the program into the summer months.
With the help of assistants Ryan Collins (who just graduated from GCHS), Kevin Smith (a current GCHS student), Chrissy Wallace (a current GCHS student), John Raia (a student at Brigham Young University), Matt Lundquist (a current GCHS student), and Linda Emin (who just graduated from GCHS), Christine Trenkel directs this summer enrichment arts and crafts program for children from 3 1/2 to 5 years old. The program is now in its second year and is held in three sessions. This year the classes ran from July 6-17, July 20-31, and the last session began Aug.3 and will conclude Aug. 14. The day begins at 10:15 and ends at 11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday in Cluett Hall at the St. Paul's School on Stewart Avenue.
Arts and crafts projects, according to teachers at Resurrection Preschool of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Garden City, allow children to practice a variety of skills that they will need to develop before entering kindergarten. Children need to be able to follow directions, so as the children are assigned a project per day in Christine Trenkel's program and then supervised as they make their art project, they are learning and enhancing their fundamental listening skills. Critical communication skills are developed as they talk with the assistants and Trenkel, asking for guidance and talking about the projects. As they execute the task before them, they also have an opportunity to develop their own creativity and artistic talent.
According to the Resurrection teachers, art provides children with a fun outlet for creative self-expression and allows the child to develop an appreciation, as well as the ability to recognize and reproduce the colors and textures in the world around them. By encouraging a child to use an array of media, tools, and methods, they develop confidence and learn responsibility in the use of these tools. An arts and crafts program provides an environment in which children will learn to work alone and in group situations and it promotes a deeper appreciation of art in the work of others, as well as in their own work.
These arts and crafts activities are also fine motor development activities, which the preschool teachers say, are critical skills to work on in early childhood development programs. These skills will provide the children with the basic writing skills they will need later on and help them with basic coordination. Children gain confidence through the development of control over their muscles, so gaining skills like being able to cut with scissors or properly hold and operate a felt tip marker or crayon are critical landmarks in the life of a preschooler and the fine-tuning of these skills is essential.
In cutting, coloring, painting, and pasting there are also opportunities to develop sensory motor integration abilities, including tactile discrimination skills and visual perception, according to the Resurrection teachers. As they follow directions and work on their crafts, they learn to distinguish between laterality and directionality (up v. down, forward v. backward, on top v. on the bottom, etc.) They also learn to identify objects according to textures and perceive differences through sight.
Some of the projects that have been made in the Arts and Crafts Program directed by Christine Trenkle are decorating sunglasses, making picture frames, and making flags. Trenkle says that the program involves, "plenty of painting, gluing, and coloring!" The children also do finger plays and engage in hand plays, which help them continue the development of both gross motor skills and fine motor skills, and most importantly, they develop essential socialization skills as they come together as a group and interact.
Every day Trenkle tells stories and conducts sing-alongs with the children. According to the teachers at Lutheran Preschool, music seems to "surround" preschool aged children and helps them develop sensitivity to surrounding sounds. By responding creatively to musical stimuli, self-concept and self-confidence is enhanced. Music, in the form of sing-alongs, and such activities, allows children to develop an appreciation for forms of communication and it provides a repertoire of musical numbers with which they can entertain themselves at other times. Understanding of pitch and tone is developed on a basic level. Most importantly, of course, this provides a fun way to relate to the adults and other children around them.
As the program draws to an end, Christine Trenkle concludes, "It was a success this year" saying that the students and staff all had an enjoyable summer and that "all the classes were fully enrolled."
To learn more about enrollment possibilities for a preschool age child next year in Christine Trenkle's Summer Recreation Department Arts and Crafts Program or Sandy Young's Arts and Crafts Program during the year, call the Recreation Department Office at 742-5800. To find out more about Resurrection Lutheran Preschool, call director Christine Turner at 741-6447.