Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Gingerbread House Starts New Year
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 3, 2012, 12:37

contributed photo Neleigh Rexroad investigates some of the toys at the Gingerbread House preschool program offered at HHS.

The Gingerbread House at Hopewell High School welcomed back parents and students, both new and old, on Tuesday morning. Children went around the room, playing with toys and exploring the space, while parents watched their children start the new school year.

Jennifer Rexroad, who works at the Development Office in the Municipal Building in Hopewell, had her son, Conner, in the preschool program for two years. Now her daughter, Neleigh, 3, will be following in her big brother’s footsteps.

“I didn’t call anyone else,” Rexroad said. “I just brought her straight here.”

The Gingerbread House preschool program is led by Early Childhood Education teacher, Crystal Barnett and her students from ECE I and II. For three hours a day, three days a week, children are cared for in a school setting. Rexroad said that time is great for her daughter to prepare for Kindergarten.

“It is important for them to have a routine,” Rexroad said. “So when they do start Kindergarten, they are not just thrown into a full day of school. This prepares them for that. She will come here for two years so that when she goes into Kindergarten, she will be ready for it.”

Rexroad said that her son, who is now in first grade at Dupont Elementary, became more willing to learn and became more patient with writing, reading and spelling after going through the Gingerbread House program.

Barnett said the class gives the children social skills and academic skills that are fundamental to Kindergarten. They learn scholastic behaviors, such as walking in a line and sitting quietly while listening to a teacher and academic facts including letters, numbers, shapes, months of the year and days of the week.

Barnett said that the class also prepares the high school students who help her run Gingerbread House for their future careers.

“One of the best aspects of this class is seeing my students become teachers and doing the profession she has chosen to do,” Barnett said. “My students, number one, are learning how to be teachers and number two, teaching the little kids the fundamentals for Kindergarten.”
contributed photo High school students work with Gingerbread students to teach them school skills.

One student, senior Tysheal Hall, joined the class to learn more about taking care of children, which quickly became her favorite part of the class.

“[I like] getting to come in here and playing with the kids,” Hall said. “All of them are different.”

Hall is learning lessons she can for the rest of her life.

“I think it will prepare me a lot,” Hall said. “Being a mother and taking care of kids; it helps me understand from the view of a child.”

Barnett said the class gives the young children who take it the social and academic kills needed for their first step into school.

Hall said she sees growth in the children’s social skills as she and her classmates work with them.

“The first day, they don’t want to be bothered by each other,” Hall said. “I tell them to play together and let’s all do this together.”

Angela Cowden and her husband, Will, brought their daughter, Alexis, 4, to the Gingerbread House to help her learn those very skills before she begins Kindergarten. Alexis hid behind her hat as her parents discussed her future at the Gingerbread House.

“She is the last of six kids ,and she’s comfortable with all of them,” Cowden said. “But with anybody else, she clams up.”

Cowden, like Rexroad, has experienced the fruits of the program before with some of her other children. She said she and her husband tried other programs, but were drawn back to the high school.

“We went to other preschools and we weren’t as happy,” Cowden said. “We like this program...there’s more one on one time with the kids, not the long lengthy day. We didn’t think she could handle a full school day. She’s not ready for that yet. This is a warm-up to get us ready for Kindergarten without overwhelming her.”

Barnett walked around the room, meeting and greeting parents and showing the new children the classroom. She said the renovations at the high school have provided her with a bigger and brighter space to start the new year at the Gingerbread House.

The first day of classes on Oct. 16 will kick off a year filled with activities. The children will spend a week learning about fire safety and prevention and learning about the many different celebrations at Christmas. On Halloween, they’ll break up their classes to go trick or treating at the Southpark Mall.

“These kids, the little kids, are Hopewell High School’s future,” Barnett said.

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