Several members, including Susan Burns, Becky Schisler and Anne Laukaitis are planning a special service on Sunday, March 24, to recognize Piedmont Progressive Preschool (PPP) and to celebrate children, in advance of April, observed nationally as The Month of the Young Child. Susan will talk briefly about her efforts to establish the school, Michele Deese, Director of PPP, will talk about the school’s philosophy, Becky will talk about her experiences as a parent of two children who have attended the school, and Anne will talk about PPP in the broader picture of care for all young children.
Piedmont Progressive Preschool (PPP) was founded in 2001, several years after we completed the building of the sanctuary. The school occupies the classroom side of the church building and operates independently of the church. The school does not receive financial support from Piedmont UU and pays rent for the use of the space. PPP’s classroom space is not ideal, as the school occupies rooms originally intended to be offices. They are small and do not have bathrooms or sinks. However, staff has made excellent use of the space. Currently they are hoping to add an outdoor yurt on the church campus to enable them to expand and add a classroom.
Long time member Susan Burns and a friend, Mary Coppola, led the effort to establish the school in order to provide a progressive option for early childhood education in the University area. Susan’s son, Tristan Burns, was one of the first students enrolled. Mary Coppola was and continues to be a respected professional expert on early childhood education. The Open Door School, the highly respected preschool that is operated by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, our sister church in Charlotte, was an important model for Piedmont Progressive Preschool. The Open Door School was the first NAEYC certified preschool in Mecklenberg County. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is a national professional organization that has developed standards for high quality early childhood education for children from birth through age 8. Achieving their certification is a significant achievement.
PPP emphasizes, as does the Open Door School, what is described as Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP): that is, education that is appropriate to the age and level of development of each individual child. The DAP philosophy is that children learn through play and that every aspect of the environment and curriculum should be appropriate to their ages and stages of development. Teachers work to prepare a learning environment that is appropriate and that is interesting and challenging. Outside learning is highly valued. There is no early emphasis on learning to read and write or memorize. There are no assigned desks or pencil and paper writing activities.
A Day at School
- A day in the life a 3or 4 year old at PPP would include much opportunity to be outside playing and exploring. The original playground was built by John Burns, Lou Gardiner-Parks and other Piedmont UU members, but has been much improved and developed over the years by the preschool. The children garden in the spring.
- Each morning session would include opportunities to be creative with paint and various media, including clay, water and wood.
- The day would include many language rich activities, built into the various aspects of the curriculum.
- Children are routinely exposed to different cultures and traditions, making its philosophy every much in line with Unitarian Universalism.
- Children have opportunities to be together and also to be alone when they would like solitude. .
- The morning has periods of active time and quiet time.
Parents are encouraged to be actively involved. Last year, some preschool parents cleared almost the entire nature trail on our 7 acres, enabling it to be walked by the children, teacher, and parents, but also by Piedmont UU members! The Board of Trustees formally thanked the parents for their efforts and the newly formed Meditation/Memorial Committee is committed to maintaining it.
PPP is an asset to Piedmont UU, one possibly many of our members are unaware of, a school we can be proud of. As a parent new to Charlotte in the 1970’s, I was aware of The Open Door School as a very high quality preschool before I was aware of the UU Church of Charlotte! Similarly, PPP is known and respected in the Charlotte area today as a unique early childhood program of very high quality.
The service on March 24 will also include several PPP children (or graduates) who will light the chalice and sing the school song. The school is planning an exhibit of children’s artwork and all Piedmont UU members are invited to help create a photo exhibit by bringing framed photos of themselves as children, or a special child or grandchild. Susan, an accomplished musician who has shared her musical talents with us many times, will also play during the service. Rev. Mary Frances will coordinate the Order of Service and provide Opening Words, Meditation and Closing. Krissa Palmer will be the Service Assistant.
We hope you will be present for this special service!