Amidst a global pandemic, it was no surprise that many schools made the decision to open virtually. The question of whether to open The Littlest Cowboys Preschool virtually or in-person was up in the air for many weeks; however, it was decided that the preschool would begin the year virtually until it is deemed safe to open physically. They officially opened on August 26, 2020.
The Littlest Cowboys Preschool, located at CCHS, educates preschoolers ages three to five from the Cooper City community. To accommodate the needs of the students, their virtual school day lasts from about 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Just like in their typical classroom, preschool students follow a daily routine throughout their school day.
“As the children log on, we do a morning greeting with a song or chant that encourages the children to respond with a greeting as well,” job coach and The Littlest Cowboys Preschool teacher Sharon Richel said. “Next, we do circle time where we talk about the calendar, days of the week and months of the year. We engage the children in interactive activities that encourage letter recognition, writing practice, as well as a wide variety of math skills. Finally, we end our day by reading a quiet book and singing our ‘Goodbye Song’ and letting them know that we can’t wait to see them the next day.”
Some of the preschoolers are the children of staff members at CCHS. Math teacher Misogi Abe’s son Aiden Abe attends The Littlest Cowboys Preschool virtually. Although it is very different compared to the face-to-face experience, the students are adjusting well to this new learning environment.
“The best part is that Aiden has a sense of a schedule and friends to be around socially, even though it’s at the comfort of his own house.”The Littlest Cowboys parent and CCHS math teacher Misogi Abe
“Aiden was excited to start school because he likes to copy his brother and wanted to be on the computer working with his teachers,” The Littlest Cowboys parent and CCHS math teacher Misogi Abe said. “The best part is that Aiden has a sense of a schedule and friends to be around socially, even though it’s at the comfort of his own house. However, because it is at home, he feels as though he doesn’t necessarily need to attend every second of class and often wanders into the kitchen to grab a snack.”
For the preschool students themselves, having a virtual program provides them with a sense of normalcy and routine during these unprecedented times. The students are able to see their teachers and friends and interact through their virtual learning environment.
“I love seeing my teachers,” four-year-old The Littlest Cowboys student Aiden Abe said. “[My favorite part of school is] pretend-play with my friends.”
CCHS students involved in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program work with The Littlest Cowboys students, teaching them on a daily basis. In this new virtual environment, high school students have not started teaching yet, but may do so in the future via Microsoft Teams. ECE students are used to interacting with the preschool students on a daily basis, so not being able to see them has been a challenge.
“Having an online preschool makes it really hard to interact and really get to know the kids compared to when we are in person,” ECE student and senior Victoria Chacon said. “I miss being able to teach them and seeing them learn and grow throughout the year.”
“Having an online preschool makes it really hard to interact and really get to know the kids compared to when we are in person.”ECE student and senior Victoria Chacon
This transition to online learning comes with various technical difficulties and other challenges. However, the Littlest Cowboys families and staff have persevered to make this virtual preschool experience possible.
“I think the parents and students have adjusted well considering the circumstances,” The Littlest Cowboys Preschool Director and ECE instructor Deborah Covard said. “We are all learning and doing our best. The teachers and families have been working really hard and it shows.”
The Littlest Cowboys Preschool will remain virtual until further notice. Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) will notify them when they approve going back face-to-face. The preschool teachers hope that the connections made virtually will transfer into their face-to-face learning environment.
“For the children who are new to the program, I am hoping that they get to know us and will feel more comfortable when school can finally be face-to-face,” job coach and The Littlest Cowboys Preschool teacher Kelly Cozier-Diaz said. “For the children that have continued with us, I hope that they know that we are here to help them learn and grow no matter the way it has to happen and that we look forward to being able to see them in person… and give them hugs.”
Photo courtesy of Deborah Covard