A series featuring communities that have a plan to expand preschool.
Literacy and music

Holyoke is one of five Massachusetts communities implementing the federal Preschool Expansion Grant. This high-quality model funds four preschool classrooms for 76 of Holyoke’s children. The city also has an ambitious preschool expansion plan: Holyoke wants to have a universal Pre-K program that would serve 300 more children, have an additional 19 more classrooms, and add 65 more teachers with bachelor’s degrees by the year 2020. Holyoke is ready for new public investments in early education.

The Staff at the Valley Opportunity Council’s (VOC) Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) Program in Holyoke works hard to create an interest-based curriculum that engages our youngest learners in exciting and educational interactive activities.

A hands-on approach to learning provides children with the tools and techniques to guide their own investigation and exploration. Our teachers become support systems for expanding the learning process and give autonomy to the children. We engage expansion of literacy skills by using “big words” and providing definitions for concepts that children are learning. No word is too big, no question is too small. No matter the topic we explore it all!

Studying clouds

Children investigate how clouds work using a simulation experiment. We drop food coloring into the top of the bowl and watch how the liquid falls through our clouds. This allows us to use observation, documentation, hypothesis, and problem solving skills!

Mixing colors

Problem solving is something VOC works hard to help families with. The Family Access Engagement Coordinator’s role is to support the whole family as the teachers work to support the development of the children.

As the FAEC (Family Access and Engagement Coordinator), Aida Gomez states that the parents seem to express a priority in setting goals for themselves and their children. Assisting the families in furthering their education empowers them to take on an advocacy role for their child’s educational growth. As a parent finishes her CNA classes, she is confident that her child is well taken care of during the day. Parents often comment to her that they have good communication with the staff and they feel their child will be better prepared for Kindergarten. Children feel comfortable and confident in the classroom and show consistent positive growth!

Working with local police.

Our goal is to use the public and private providers in our community to enhance parent skills and abilities. From hosting events for families such as Safety Awareness Days, Health workshops and English classes, we work to support all the needs of our families. We use our Home visits, completed three times a year, to engage with families, explore their needs, and provide supports such as the Food Backpack supplement programs to support weekend healthy eating. The children enrolled in the programs have a unique opportunity to explore science, music, and team building monthly with programs involving MAD Science, musicians, and behavioral health professionals. We use our PEG Family Assessment Tool to find out how we can support family’s needs in areas such as transportation, housing, employment, financial health, food and nutrition, safety, health, medical, and dental. Our goal is to create positive opportunities for our families and encourage them to become stronger, healthier and engaged family units!

Submitted by: Johanna I. Diaz, PEG Coordinator, Holyoke Public Schools