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Preparing for kindergarten

By Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, November 20, 2008

HAY RIVER - Norma Shaw says preschool is a "very important" introduction to education for children.

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Norma Shaw is the co-ordinator at the Hay River Play School. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

And Shaw should know a thing or two about preschools, since she has worked at the Hay River Play School for 14 years.

She began as an assistant, then became a teacher and has been co-ordinator of the program for the past four years.

The Hay River Play School is a preschool for children aged three to five.

"Children at that age are like sponges," Shaw said. "At the age of three, they're ready to learn new things."

Shaw said the children come to the play school each day with enthusiasm to learn.

"I love their curiosity, their willingness to learn," she said.

The children are taught a variety of things, such as the ABCs, colours, shapes and crafts through a variety of methods, including stories, puppets and songs.

"Basically, what we do is we prepare them socially for kindergarten," said Shaw, who still teaches at the play school along with co-ordinating the program.

The teachers and children also talk about various themes, such as the environment.

"We talk about a lot of different things, but we talk about it at their age level," Shaw said.

At the preschool, children also experience being away from their parents and how to behave around other children.

"We teach them about taking turns and waiting in line," Shaw said.

Four-year-olds attend the preschool for two and a half hours a day, three days a week. Three-year-olds attend two days a week.

"A good majority of children in Hay River go to a preschool," Shaw said, adding there is also a preschool at Ecole Boreale and the Aboriginal

Headstart program on the Hay River Reserve.

There are 32 children at the Hay River Play School, which is run by parents through a co-op.

Shaw said working at a preschool is hard work, but a lot of fun.

"It's a wonderful field that I hope more young people will get into," she said. "There is lots of opportunity. It's a field they will enjoy."

Shaw has a diploma in early childhood education from Douglas College in Surrey, B.C.

She is originally from Vancouver, but has lived in Hay River for 20 years.