Horizon Education Alliance will be implementing a new preschool curriculum throughout Elkhart County to help further prepare kids for kindergarten and beyond.
In January, HEA convened a group of leading early childhood education experts, led by HEA Coordinator of Early Education Dr. Bruce Stahly, Elkhart County schools preschool coordinator Kim Boyton and HEA Research Director Dr. Aliah Carolan-Silva, with the goals of defining kindergarten readiness, best practices and high quality curriculum.
The research committee included early childhood experts, leaders and practitioners, including representatives from schools, Head Start, the Early Childhood Alliance, preschool providers and local non-profit organizations. The committee completed its goals, naming Tools of the Mind its chosen pre-kindergarten curriculum. The committee also developed a strategic plan, collaborating to increase the quality of pre-kindergarten classes.
“The research group spent many hours investigating different curriculum offerings for preschool but in the end the group nearly unanimously selected Tools of the Mind,” said Dr. Stahly. “Many members of the group felt that Tools of the Mind aligned with the way they felt preschool students learn best, actively being involved in the learning process in a community self-controlled atmosphere.”
Tools of the Mind is considered by many experts to be the leading preschool curriculum that integrates the multiple types of high-quality play experiences necessary for children to develop socio-emotional and cognitive self-regulation. Self-regulation, such as being able to pay attention, remember on purpose, plan one’s actions and cooperate, greatly influence a child’s future success in school. Research also shows that Tools of the Mind students have higher literacy and math scores and fewer discipline issues than other students and that the curriculum is effective with all children, including English language learners and students with special needs, making it an ideal fit for Elkhart County’s diverse population.
Director of Building Blocks Preschool Nancy Campagnoli is eager to bring Tools of the Mind to our community, saying “the preschool years are such a critical time for children – a time when brain pathways are developed that lay the foundation for the rest of their lives. The approach used by the Tools of the Mind curriculum supports the development of each child’s skills to be successful academically and socially. The training and support given to teachers is excellent, and provided in a way that ensures success for everyone – teachers and students.”
Fifty early childhood educators are joining together with HEA to participate in a comprehensive training in the Tools of the Mind curriculum, including lead and assistant teachers from 18 preschool classrooms from across Elkhart County. The training begins on August 13 and 14 with a 2-day seminar at Goshen College. The Tools of the Mind implementation will be a two year process, with eight professional development days over two years, all in Elkhart County.
Middlebury Community Schools Superintendent Jane Allen said she is very excited for the opportunity to begin to reach the population of underserved children through HEA bringing together numerous partners.
“When so many of our children come to school without the opportunity to learn in an exciting and developmentally appropriate preschool environment, we will now be able to offer their families hope for a future of educational success,” said Allen.