Phyllis McGuire | Williamstown Community Preschool celebrating 45 years
From 1972 until 2012, WCP coexisted with the church in an addition to the building. When the congregation decreased to the extent that they no longer needed the building, they merged with a congregation in North Adams
WCP bought the building with the help of funds allocated at Williamstown annual town meeting.
"We wanted to expand," said Sue Hamblin, director of WCP, at the time.
A private, nonprofit organization, WCP serves the needs of children aged 15-months to 5 years in a year-round program that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.
Grouped by age, toddlers are dubbed Puffins and Bunnies; preschoolers are dubbed Pandas, Lambs and Bears.
"We have 14 teachers," Hamblin said as she showed me around WCP in April. It was during "Week of the Young Child," an annual celebration hosted by National Association for Education of Young Children.
In a Bunnies classroom, Hamblin introduced me to the six toddlers, all of whom were playing with a train set and other toys.
Adorable Adele came up to me and said "Hello, Phyllis." I was surprised that my name rolled off the 2-year-old's tongue so easily. Tots have trouble pronouncing it.
Running her hand over her blouse, Adele said with aplomb, "This is yellow." (Uh-huh) Then she picked up a scarf from a table and said "This is purple." Is Adele fascinated with colors or justly proud of having learned color names, I wondered.
Amy, a teacher at the WCP for 29 years, mentioned some of the changes she sees in the children in her class; "In their speech, in sharing and learning to do things on their own."
On Wednesday of "Week of the Young Child," activities focused on working together. Pandas and Puffins built marble towers and classroom forts, and put together floor puzzles.
Any day of the week, children burn off energy in the spacious gym, formerly the nave and sacristy of First United Methodist Church. The morning I visited, Pandas were riding tricycles, playing basketball and spinning hula hoops at their waists, under the watchful eyes of teachers Lisa and Sally.
Two Pandas under a hula hoop together were sort of skipping across the gym. Cute! And there was the Panda who stopped his tricycle at the "pump."
"It ran out of gas," he said.
Several of the children I spoke with said painting was their favorite thing to do. And Bears' art work was hanging on the wall of the gym: A heart-shaped poster with little orange, green, blue hand prints on it.
I had an "oops" moment when I was talking with a Panda about birthdays. "I bet they have a cake for you here on your birthday," I said. "A healthy treat," Hamblin interjected.
In a corner of the gym, there were three red carts inscribed "Bye-Bye-Buggy."
"When we go outdoors," Hamblin said, "we put our youngest children in the carts and secure them with seat belts."
The carts were put to use on Thursday in "Week of the Child" when activities included looking for art and cherry blossom trees in the community.
On Music Monday, preschooler Myles especially enjoyed practicing drums. "He's a musician," his teacher said.
The value of music in a child's life is not lost on Hamblin. "Through music children develop math, language and literacy skills, while having fun and being active," she said.
WCP celebrated its 45th anniversary on April 29, and is looking forward to continuing to serve the needs of young children. WCP circulars posted around town recommend "Enroll now for September."
"I have the best job," Hamblin said when my visit came to an end, "I get hugs and kisses all day long."
Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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