A New Way to Pre-K
The three Alief Early Childhood Centers will be innovative schools for Pre-Kindergarten children that takes learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. The focus of the childhood centers is to provide hands-on, interactive, purposeful, and playful experiences that builds important background knowledge and vocabulary necessary for kindergarten readiness, as well as success in the later grades.
Advanced Interactive Pre-Kindergarten Centers Opening Soon!
Realizing that effective early childhood instruction is crucial to a student’s success, Alief ISD formed a Full-Day Pre-K Task Force that began meeting in 2018. This task force consisted of Alief ISD employees and trustees as well as representatives from the Texas Education Agency, the Region 4 Education Service Center, the Children at Risk organization, Children’s Learning Institute, Good Reason Houston/Early Matters and more.
The hard work put in by this task force laid the groundwork for the district piloting full-day Pre-K on five campuses for the 2019-20 program. The program was such a success that the district expanded the full-day Pre-K program to 14 campuses for the 2020-21 school year.
The evidence presented by the Task Force to support full-day Pre-K was conclusive. Research shows that students who attend a high quality Pre-K program have better outcomes than those who do not. I am not talking just better test scores but the fact that high quality early learning leads to better language, cognitive and social skills through elementary school. In addition to that, research also shows that students who attend a high quality full day Pre-K program outperform those that attend a half-day program. The reason for this being that teachers have more time to work individually or with small groups of students in a more relaxed environment.
“The research is indisputable. A child’s brain is growing exponentially the first five years of his or her life. Early education is crucial to the development of a child for success in later life,” said Mari Martinez, Alief ISD Early Childhood Coordinator.
Realizing that continued expansion of the full-day Pre-K program would eventually create space issues at many elementary schools, the task force recommended the construction of three stand-alone early childhood centers in the district. Plans for the three centers have been a goal of Alief ISD for many years as funds for these projects were included in the successful 2015 Bond Referendum.
The first early childhood center will be located just north of Horn Elementary along the Boone Loop. The second facility will be located on the northeast corner of Howell Sugarland Road and Bellaire. These two facilities will open in 2022. Currently, the district is looking to acquire property for the third location.
These childhood centers will not look like a traditional classroom setting. The three Alief Early Childhood Centers will be innovative schools for pre-kindergarten children that takes learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.
“These are unique designs; they definitely will not look like any of our other classroom buildings,” said Glenn Jarrett, director of construction and facilities. “Each of the centers will feature multiple learning areas as well indoor and outdoor play areas. We are fortunate to be working with Huckabee on the facility near Horn Elementary and PBK Architects on the facility on Howell Sugarland. Both of these firms have experience with these non-traditional buildings and have provided invaluable advice.”
The focus of the childhood centers is to provide hands-on, interactive, purposeful, and playful experiences that builds important background knowledge and vocabulary necessary for kindergarten readiness, as well as success in the later grades.
Centered on the research that children learn best through active, exploratory experiences, each of the Alief ISD Early Childhood Centers will provide 3 neighborhoods and 12 distinct houses -- typically called classrooms.
“In Alief, we believe that children learn best through planned, purposeful play, and our objective is to provide hands-on, interactive, purposeful experiences that build background knowledge and vocabulary necessary for kindergarten readiness. As we thought about what we wanted our Pre-K Centers to be like, we knew that we wanted to create a place where students were able to learn and explore through purposeful, playful experiences,” Martinez added.
Each of the neighborhoods and homes will feature unique learning experiences for students.
The Discovery Neighborhood will feature –
House 1: NASA - to expose students to space exploration, planets and astronauts.
House 2: Gulf Coast - which features oceans, wildlife and plant life.
House 3: Healthy - students will learn about their bodies and making healthy choices.
House 4: International District - will highlight the many different cultures of the Alief community.
The Inquiry Neighborhood will feature -
House 1: Pet Vet - vet clinic, taking care of pets at home.
House 2: From Farm to Table - farming, growing, market, groceries, restaurant, from farm to table.
House 3: Digging Dino’s - looking in the past, digging fossils, bones, tools and exploring life science.
House 4: Wild World - zoo animals, life cycles, habitats, animals from: jungle, rain forest and arctic.
The Voyages Neighborhood will feature -
House 1: Hidden Forces - science and technology, weather, communications, forces and motion.
House 2: Going Places - transportation, travel experiences, journeys and maps.
House 3: Tinker Town - construction machinery, tools, Legos, robotics and architecture.
House 4: Our Community - community helpers, neighborhood places and jobs.
“The focus in our Pre-K program (for both the Pre-K Centers, as well as the convertible classrooms we will be adding to our elementary campuses) is for students to have opportunities to learn about the world around them, create background knowledge and build vocabulary that will prepare them for Kindergarten. This supports our goal of on-level reading by 3rd grade,” said Martinez.
In the new Alief ISD Pre-K centers, students will experience three different neighborhoods including Discovery, Inquiry, and Voyages. In each neighborhood, students will be able to learn through planned, purposeful play.