DHS ‘Little Hatters’ preschool

DHS child development students prepare to lead ‘Little Hatters’ preschool
Posted on 02/25/2019

Planning healthy snacks and activities while being mindful of incorporate education lessons is a lot of work, as students in Danbury High School’s child develop courses have found out. They have been preparing since the fall to lead their own preschool classes that begin in March.


The 84 students enrolled in either Child Development or Early Childhood Workshop are putting the finishing touches on lesson plans as they assume the role of preschooler teacher and welcome a group of three- and four-year-old “Little Hatters” into their classroom. Since September, under direction of their family consumer science teacher Erica Keane, students have learned about physical (including nutrition), intellectual, emotional and social (PIES) development of preschool-age children in order to take on the task of planning lessons and activities that will take them through a four-hour session.


“I have them engaged early on in activities that younger children would participate in,” said Keane. “They are also asked to use their non-dominant hand to make it more challenging. They learn about sensory motor and fine motor skills and see for themselves how to teach content at the appropriate age level.”


Keane also discusses with her students the effects of technology on young children and the result of different parenting styles that affect how children behave. The emotional and social components of development are more academic and involve discussing the challenges that students face.


The childhood development courses are one of several career pathways offered at DHS, so students can explore different career options while still in high school.


“Some really fall in love with the idea of teaching, and others are surprised at how hard it is,” Keane said.


Since early February, the DHS students have been working hard to transform their classroom into a preschool and plan lessons. Working in pairs, the students are each tasked with taking the lead for a four-hour preschool day that includes play time, snack time, outdoor recess and classroom learning with activities.


“It’s really their preschool,” Keane said. “They get to take over and lead.”


The students are working hard on lessons and are very eager for the Little Hatters to arrive in March.


“It’s time-consuming to plan a class. We have to think of very single, little moment,” said senior Marissa Volpe.


Little Hatters preschool has been a part of DHS for more than 30 years; enrollment is limited to a dozen or so four-year-old children who come three days a week; a class of three-year-old students meets the other two weekdays. There is a minimal cost to parents that covers supplies. Keane said there is currently a wait list to register and applications are taken in November for the following spring.


Marissa, a Danbury native, went to Little Hatters as a youngster, as did her brother and sister. She is looking forward to applying everything she has learned thus far about preschoolers and how they think and develop.


“We studied how their brains develop and how to deal with other challenges, like how to teach kids who may need a nontraditional approach,” Marissa said. “I’m so excited for the kids to come in.”


Marissa has teamed up with classmate Sofia Rizk to work on a sea animal theme that includes memory cards, a sea animal book and a sensory table with water absorbent beads and toy sea creatures.

“Our biggest challenge has been making the activities easier or harder for those who are advanced or those who may need more time,” Sofia said.


Gabrielly Oliveria, a sophomore, wants to be an elementary school teacher or a child psychologist. Her classroom partner Elizabeth Hadden, a senior, wants to work in the health field and said working with students is good experience. Their topic is fish and frogs and includes a math activity where children sort paper fish by shape. They, too, found the range of ease for the activities a challenge.


“It’s hard to make it harder,” Elizabeth said. “The planning has been time consuming. You can’t just sit with them for 96 minutes. It’s very interactive. But I’m excited about applying everything we learned to teaching the students.”


Jay Chapa and Matt Lucas, both sophomores, agreed that the class has been interesting.


“The class makes me more interested in the possibility of teaching someday,” said Matt.


Jay said he took the class for personal interest and noted that it’s good to learn how children play and interact.


“It’s useful knowledge for other careers,” he said. “Keeping them occupied is going to be hard. You have to put yourself in the mentality of a preschooler to see what they want to do and that was difficult.”


For more information on The Litter Hatters program, contact Erica Keane at keanee@danbury.k12.ct.us.