Topsail Elementary North Carolina

Over the last week in North Carolina, have I been able to witness a variety Head Start and Early Head Start programs over a shorter space of time. This has made me understand and reflect on the programs I have already seen in New York City.
The HS programs cover the whole United States, some are stand alone centres, some grantees are in the context of a community centre, or rented out rooms within private day care, some are attached to Universities which I will be finding more about when I return to New York. This shows the diversity of federal grants, and who is eligible to apply for a head start program if they show the capacity to manage and deliver. Towards the end of last week in North Carolina we visited North Topsail Elementary School in South East North Carolina, this gave me an example of the resources that are available to them within a primary school context.
We meet Stacey Poulin, Education Co-ordinator who is also family support coordinator who shows us into the two HS classrooms. Stacey was an intern with Khari at the State Collaboration Office, as was Kenneth and Rosemarie. The school has attracted HS teacher, Kellie Henry, she is BA (Hons), Masters qualified and currently studying for a PHD. She works alongside her Student Intern Kelly who is also BA (Hons) qualified with 18 years experience of working in PreK.
These classrooms are large, light and airy, the space is bigger than usual head start spaces. It is nap time at the moment and there are small outlets of light coming from various lamps dotted about the area. It’s like a film set, so atmospheric there are rugs, and carpets, small tables traditional house and play areas with walls covered with creative work from floor to ceiling. The teachers are quietly preparing for the afternoon lessons. The space, resources and use of facilities are the ‘in kind’ donation of the school. The children have access to 10 Ipad’s have updated apps with games and music. Those who are not sleeping are sat up quietly on their tablets.
The centre operates as a smooth transition into Kindergarten (Reception) just down the corridor, and most of the children do stay even though there are two other elementary schools in the area. The centre based program still exists and the parents two home visits throughout the year, and parents are invited into the school once a month a partake in their child’s learning by being involved with a centre activity. Additional family support is initially done through introductions through the teachers, but extra support is given by the family specialist.
Student Intern Kelly says that going in pairs to do the home visits is a good way to build a bond with parents, because having two people who show encouragement in their child’s learning is better than one. She says we have a lot communication with the families and link it into the child’s learning. We ask them questions about what they can bring to a subject or a topic we’re working on at the moment. When they see their contributions and how their children have learnt it is a great result building on that. If families need extra support they help them to work towards goals. If they know the families are going through tough times in their life right now, they suggest, planning a dinner together, so families can make more time with their child. Or more specifically let’s get you to spend time going to library, we will help you get a library card.
On our way out we meet a parent volunteer. She is situated halfway down the corridor to help direct parents and visitors. She is like crowd control, but really enjoys spending time in the school where her child goes. She says the hour before school pick up is a great time to meet the teachers and children. She said the PTA wasn’t her style, but she was happy to contribute with baking, she just really wanted to be part of her sons learning by showing an active engagement and this way the school is happy for her to do that. She happily poses for a photograph in front of lots of advice and information for the school. Off we go into the heat of the afternoon.




2 thoughts on “Topsail Elementary North Carolina

  1. Hi Lucy; just wanted to say this is SUCH a great blog. I don’t look every day but dip in from time to time and I’m very impressed. what you’re doing is classic Fellowship stuff. Well done & keep on enjoying it. I don’t know whether you’ve had chance to talk to Jo Pitt in East Pennine but she’ll be very interested in this. I’m going to send her the link.


    Gordon Mason

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