Nativity and St. Michael’s partnership a winner for Child Development

St. Michael the Archangel students, Moriah Breunig and Alyssa Lakin, work with preschool students at Nativity of Mary School in Independence. The Child Development program is a partnership between the two schools. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A partnership formed between Nativity of Mary School and St. Michael the Archangel High School in Lee’s Summit, provides high school students interested in how children learn with the opportunity to work several hours a week with 3-4-and 5-year-old Nativity students in the preschool class — a win-win situation for both.

Stephanie Hollo, Nativity preschool teacher, said her interest in Child Development started in high school. “I was chosen to participate in an early childhood program in the Raytown District, so I left Raytown South High School for the last half of my day to go to an elementary school in our district to work in their early education program. After doing that I knew what my goals were and that was to be a teacher in Early Education /Child Development. To achieve this, I attended the University of Central Missouri, pursuing a degree in Child and Family Development.

“Last February I was helping my son, a student at St. Michael the Archangel, set up for his classes for the upcoming year. When we were looking at electives I noticed that there was an option for Child and Family Development as an elective. I decided to emailed Jodie Maddox to see who was teaching it and she said she wasn’t sure. I told her what my degree was in and that I was teaching Early Ed. at Nativity; she asked me to come in to talk to her. From there we started planning what the first year was going to look like, by July we had a textbook and I was starting to work on curriculum.”

Since Hollo teaches at Nativity, the book work and assignments in the Child Development Course is done via Google Classroom so that the St. Michael’s students work with Hollo over the Internet one day a week, known as a Silver Day.

The Child Development class began some time ago, and during Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 28 – Feb. 2) The Catholic Key was invited to visit Nativity of Mary and see what’s going on.

The preschool class is bright and kid-oriented, with tables with child-sized chairs scattered around the room, a doll house, a play veterinary office, stuffed animals, blocks and books and so much more. The St. Michael’s students, Alyssa Lakin, Alexandra Pocock and Moriah Breunig, chattered with the children as they arrived, helped them put coats and backpacks in their lockers, and directed them to tables or a carpet on one side of the room, surrounded by bookcases.

After the morning prayer over the intercom, the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements, it was morning meeting time. The children chose the helping jobs they would do that day. The weather person announced that the weather that day was both sunny and cloudy; another child chose to fill the class’s water bottles; other children chose to take charge of the monthly calendar, serve as librarian or pass out items for activities. After all the jobs had been chosen, the month, day of the week and how many days in the month had already passed were counted and tallied, the room grew quieter.

Hollo said 19 children are enrolled in the preschool class, but not all attend every day. That day there were 14 students.

Alyssa selected a book about “Little S,” the alphabet letter of the day, and read it to the children. “Little S” had all sorts of adventures beginning with the letter “s.” For related activities, several children were called to a station (table) loaded with craft paper, a glue stick for the high school student seated there, coloring and decorating supplies. Fourteen white circles and brown construction paper snake-like figures were to be made into snails, an “s” word.

Other kids made “shapes” out of blunt toothpicks and marshmallows, with several slyly eating the marshmallows, while a third group built things out of popsicle “sticks” and then experimented with building bears to see how many bears would fit in-or-on top the structure. After a certain time, the kids shifted stations and activities.

Junior Alyssa said, “I’ve always loved being around children so when I saw I could hang out with kids as a class and learn more about them. I knew it would be the perfect class for me. I’ve learned so much from this class, there are so many different types of kids and they are all so different from each other, so learning the different teaching methods for different types of students was really cool for me. I plan on doing Child development as long as I can. I’ve learned so much from Mrs. Hollo and the kids and it’s been a huge blessing to be part of this class and to be able to interact with these kids on a daily basis.”

Senior Alex: “I decided to do Child Development this year because I had done my service hours at Nativity last year. I was working with the after-school program and I loved being with the kids. My friend had taken the class last semester and said it was really fun, so I decided to do it. I’ve learned how to teach kids in an organized manner. I think morning meeting is really helpful because it gives the kids a chance to learn the letter they are on in the alphabet. Then we tell them what different stations we will be doing and what they can do at them. Right now, I’m not interested in a teaching degree, but I do love working with kids! I’ve decided to major in Marine Biology!”

Junior Moriah said, “What sparked my interest in Child Development was that I love kids, they’re positive, cute and funny. I have always loved babysitting and now that I get to work with these kids, it has really shown me that I love them and helping them grow and learn! What I have learned the most is the different ways to accommodate to other kids to certain things because they all learn differently. I have also learned that doing everyday things that relate to what we’re trying to teach them, helps them learn it faster or it makes more sense. I want and really hope I can continue to take Child development but, I registered to take a nursing class at Summit Tech so, if get into Summit Tech then I will be unable to take Child development for my senior year.” 

Hollo explained, “Next year we are going to expand our learning lab to Our Lady of the Presentation Early Ed Center. The reason behind this expansion is to open it up to more students who might not be able to make it to Nativity. SMA has students from Independence, Blue Springs, Raytown and Lee’s Summit and since the learning lab requires these students to start their day at 7:45 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. (SMA time) a learning lab closer to their home might be easier for them to attend.”

As the learning lab time drew to a close, the girls departed for St. Michael’s and the rest of their classes. The preschoolers prepared to attend PE class, but Lukas had to show his snail to the “mom” standing taking photographs of them, which had most of the children curious. He brought me the brightly decorated snail with a big smile and awaited my reaction: “Wonderful!”


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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph