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Happy Fall, everyone! We are still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we are already back in the saddle of school! As always, the summer flew by for us all here at Open Arms. Although the moms say that their kiddos couldn’t wait for school to start, so in their little minds it must have lasted forever!

We keep the beginning of the year simple as we spend most of our time getting to know each of the children and their families. For kiddos who’ve never been in any sort of structured class with new teachers and children they’ve never met before, it can take a while to adjust to the new routine. This is especially true for our younger three-year-old children. We affectionately refer to our first days as “herding chickens or kittens.” Just getting fifteen three-year-olds to understand what “line up” means is quite the feat!

We also use this early time to learn what skills the children have, which helps us determine what we need to work on for the year. This year we are using the Colorado Early Learning and Developmental Guidelines Observation Tool as our assessment. This tool will follow the children through both years of preschool here at Open Arms. The Colorado Early Learning and Developmental Guidelines were developed with the support of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Department of Human Services, Head Start, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Heath Care Policy and Financing and the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The Observation Tool was created by the Early Childhood Council of Larimer County based on these guidelines. As we move closer to receiving our Colorado Shines rating, it was important for us to switch to this tool. The rating looks at how closely we follow the ELDG, along with many other things.

As of right now, we are scheduled to have our big rating in April. We still have quite a lot of work to do in order to be prepared for this. Fortunately, we have been awarded another $1,500 from the state to spend on “Quality Improvements” to our program. Our staff is considering the things we need most for our program and may be looking at how to update the outdoor toys, equipment and playground. We have already received around $3,000 in Quality Improvement funds, which have allowed us to update inside toys, replace broken or outdated items and improve our classroom setting. It has also been used for some of the Continuing Ed classes that our staff is required to take outside of class time.

Other things happening in preparation for our rating include frequent observations by a Quality Coach from the ECCLC and by a consultant from Summitstone Health Partners Child Care Mental Health; constant attention to our classroom organization, materials and operation; Handbook Policy updates and additions; improved communications with the families; continuing education for our staff; diversity awareness; researching resources we can provide for or refer to our families; and numerous other things. Needless to say, it will be a busy year!

Both morning classes are full this year, and we currently have nine students in an afternoon mixed-age class. Inquiries continue to trickle in, so that number will likely increase over the next month or so as people continue looking for preschools. We have several siblings of past students coming this year, so that’s always fun to see those kiddos now that they are in elementary school and growing up!

In September we took our first field trip, a visit to Mrs. Wise’s house after reading the book “My Teacher Sleeps in School.” The kids absolutely love this! Our Summitstone Health Partners consultant told me that this was one of the best things she has ever seen a preschool do and she absolutely loves the connection it brings to the students, parents and staff. I invite families to all attend with their children. We all take a quick “tour” of my house so the kids can see that I actually do have a real house, just like them! They can see photos of my family and meet my pets; then we walk to the park to play and return to my house for a picnic snack in my backyard. I bake a cake for them (just like in the book we read), always a huge hit. I love how this field trip connects the parents, too. It fosters the beginning of new relationships among these young families.

Our next field trip in September is to the Environmental Learning Center, where we do scavenger hunts and explore nature on a tour led by CSU students. This is another favorite trip! We will head out for our walking field trip to the Fire Station once the first of October gets here. This is fun since we can see the colors of fall, the Halloween decorations on front porches and lots of squirrels! September also has been full of discussions about how to be a good friend, school rules and our feelings. We also learn all about apples and do our very own taste test of all kinds of different apples!

September is also the month for our Bike Rodeo, school pictures and eye screenings done by the Lions Club. One of our new preschool moms, Brittany Rose, will be doing our school photos this year. We are so very grateful to her. We will be excited to see how our Bike Rodeo goes this year. The kids always love it and go home extra tired.

We look forward to another fun and exciting school year! If you are ever around and want to pop in, please don’t hesitate to come say hello!

A blessed fall to everyone!

Kandy Wise is the Director of Open Arms Preschool, a ministry of Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You may reach her at 482-1357 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions about the Preschool.