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Education students put on community story hour

Many local preschool age children looked forward to Saturday mornings this spring thanks to Dordt College students. For ten weeks the students in Instructor Gwen (Rens, ’90) Marra’s Introduction to Early Childhood Education class led a story hour at the public library.

Kimberly Taylor planned a story hour around the theme of camping.  Children heard stories about camping, played in a real tent, roasted marshmallows over a pretend fire, and fished for alphabet soup.

Kimberly Taylor planned a story hour around the theme of camping. Children heard stories about camping, played in a real tent, roasted marshmallows over a pretend fire, and fished for alphabet soup.

Each week’s session was built around a specific theme and included stories, games, songs, and crafts designed to get children excited about learning through books. One morning they read the book One Dog Canoe and spent the hour learning about camping. Children had a wonderful time playing in a tent, pretending to roast marshmallows over a fire, having make-believe picnics, and fishing for alphabet fish.

The Early Childhood education endorsement is a new addition to Dordt’s education major. Marra believes the story hour project is a practical way for future primary school teachers and future preschool directors to apply what they are learning—and learn even more as they do it. Marra, a kindergarten teacher and director of a local preschool, says there has been a huge response to the program and she has been asked to repeat it next year.

Each student in Marra’s class led one of the sessions and assisted a classmate with another session. Preparation for the hour-long story hour sessions was a crucial part of the class learning experience.

“They learned about timing,” she says. “You can’t have any down time with preschoolers, and you need to learn how to give instructions that they can follow smoothly.” Her students were surprised at how important planning in detail was, she says.

For each session, the student leader selected a theme for the day. They then chose books, songs, games, and crafts to fill one hour. Before presenting in story hour, each student presented their program to the rest of their college class.

Although Marra worked with them throughout the process, it was often in making the actual presentation and getting feedback from their classmates that her students really saw whether the ideas would work smoothly, she says. Several changes were made after these preliminary presentations, some fairly major ones.

Although the course included much more than the story hour presentations, that activity was memorable both for its teaching value and its community service value. Marra is pleased with the number of students who are taking the first-time course since more and more schools prefer that their primary school teachers and kindergarten teachers have the Early Childhood endorsement.

The waiting lists for this year’s story hour program are a good indicator of how parents appreciated the opportunity too.