Based in Leesburg, VA, AART runs on the philosophy that “a child ready for school will succeed in school” and provides free school readiness programs for at-risk children. At Whitefield and Coppermine Place, residents and retired members of the neighborhood volunteer to run the 30- week program to prepare children for kindergarten. Being a seniors community, Coppermine Place offers the preschool program to the wider Herndon community, including grandchildren of residents.
“The class runs like a mini-preschool where we cover skills like colors, shapes, letters, numbers and counting, writing and recognizing names,” said Julie Brunson, AART Program Manager. “Each week we plan activities around the theme of a book, and on the second day of class they take the book home for their personal library.”
Elderly residents at Coppermine also benefit from the classes, delighted to spend time with and mentor the children. "The class teaches us new ways to work with children," said Janet, a resident and regular volunteer. "It helps our memory for us older people, too.”
A typical day follows a weekly theme by focusing on fine motor skills and recognition, sensory activity, song time, gross motor skills, crafting, and one-on-one reading with a volunteer.
Some of the weekly themes for the program include: “Colors and Shapes,” where children play with Play-Doh and construction paper; “Counting and Apples,” where children participate in a scavenger hunt; and “Letters and Names,” where children sing a song about the first letter in their name and paint their names in water colors.