As school's courtyard blooms, so do its children


September 19, 1997|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE BUTTERFLY garden in the middle of Bollman Bridge Elementary's enclosed courtyard is still in bloom, several years after being planted by students.

The garden features perennials that attract butterflies to a safe, enclosed area.

Now the courtyard has sprouted new delights and harbors other creatures -- young children who are enrolled in the school's Regional Early Childhood Center preschool program.

Called Learning Together, the preschool enrolls developmentally delayed and other children from the Bollman Bridge, Forest Ridge and Laurel Woods school districts.

The preschoolers learn to play together. They practice sharing toys, learn the names of the colors, numbers, letters and shapes, the usual preschool curriculum.

There are field trips, for which a large number of parents volunteer, as well as a special Mother's Day tea, recitals of "The Three Little Pigs" and visits to the Media Center.

And, of course, playtime in the courtyard.

Families of the developmentally delayed children attend free, while the others pay a fee, which helps take care of the center's needs.

Recently, the fees paid for toys for the courtyard -- a new play house, a jungle gym, slides and tables for the children.

There are four new storage lockers, holding tricycles and scooters.

The center occupies a wing of the school, providing a home for the Early Beginnings program for developmentally delayed infants through preschoolers, as well as Learning Together.

The Early Beginnings program is more home-focused, with in-school activities such as play groups.

Early Beginnings team leader Brenda Coker has been at the school for eight years.

She is enjoying watching some of her early charges graduate into elementary school.

Jim and Teresa Chapple enrolled their son, Eric, when he was 2 months old.

When he was 3 years old, the Learning Together program opened, and he participated.

L His mother appreciated the role models provided for her son.

"At 3, they don't have any of the prejudices," she said. "It was good for him to have role models to move around."

When their younger daughter, Jessica, was 3, the Chapples enrolled her in the program.

Chapple said, "When he [Eric] was in the preschool program, I looked at both sides of it. I really liked the program."

"For Jessica, on the nondisabled side, it's very different," she said. "There was an individual education plan for Eric, but then, on the [nondisabled] side, it's just a typical preschool experience. It's the difference between a need and a choice, but what's amazing is the kids get along 100 percent." Louise Butler and Sheila Thomas are also long-term veterans at the center.

Most of the other staff members -- Kelly Anderson, Barbara Stein, Patricia Walls (who has had both Eric and Jessica Chapple in her classes), Paula Bathras, Ann Lindenberger, Karen Keedy, and Teri Knowles -- have been with the center for several years.

There are some newcomers, too. They are Kristin Hunsicker, Beth Reckord, Dawn Siebel, Alison Weintraub, Pat Kunzle and Laurie Grigalus.

Information: 410-880-5920.

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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