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Blochman adds garden to preschool, transitional kindergarten program

09.19.2011 | Santa Maria Times | Gina Potthoff

It’s been a little more than a week since the garden was
planted, but already preschoolers at Benjamin Foxen Elementary have
the basics down.

Plants go into the soil, people water them and then they
grow.

“That’s snapdragons,” 4-year-old Ellie Harris said Tuesday morning,
pointing to purple flowers in a garden bed.

“We need water in them now,” Ellie cautioned next after stuffing
seeds for edible flowers — nasturtiums — into the other bed filled
with budding broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower.

The garden is a new addition to the small outdoor preschool that
sits on the outskirts of rural Sisquoc and currently serves six
preschoolers after opening two years ago.

Students from mostly urban Santa Maria and Orcutt are learning that
food is grown, not just shelved and bought at the grocery store,
said teacher aide Lisa Harris.

The whole idea of the preschool, teacher Amy Iliff said, is to give
students the opportunity to play and learn at the same time,
whether they’re outside or inside.

Most days the youngsters can be found making mud pies, digging for
bugs or playing with toys in a yard with a view of rolling hills
and farm animals that could easily be on a painted canvas.

“It’s a very big back yard,” Iliff said, referring to the fenced
playground area overlooking nearby wineries and fields. “It’s just
beautiful. The whole idea is just being outside.”

Blochman also added its first transitional kindergarten program
this week to get a jump-start on adhering to the Kindergarten
Readiness Act of 2010, which the Legislature passed to change the
required birthday for admission to kindergarten and first grade and
also establish transitional kindergarten programs at all school
districts by the 2012–2013 school year.

Academically, socially and developmentally, the 4-year-olds and the
5-year-olds are about the same, Iliff said, so it makes sense that
they play and learn together.

Preschoolers have a longer recess, while the transitional
kindergarten kids focus lessons on phonics and learning to
read.

“The plan is, they don’t repeat kindergarten,” Iliff said.

Blochman Superintendent Kristin Garrison-Lima said parents had
asked for a transitional program, so it made sense to get started
sooner than later.

“It’s a good mix in between,” Garrison-Lima said, adding that the
school wants to get the word out so more parents consider the
smaller district that serves about 150 students in kindergarten
through eighth grade.

“It’s a choice for parents to come to us,” she said.

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