405 E Apple Lane, Athens IL 62613
Call: (217) 636-7950

Photos courtesy of Sugar Pop Photography

Research has shown us that the more direct involvement young children have with their learning activities, the more effectively they learn.  Children create their own knowledge by direct, hands-on interaction with the materials, activities, and people in their environment.  Thus, children must have an especially rich environment full of materials, activities, and people who relate well to their ages and stages of development if they are to learn.   

In addition, for learning to take place, it is essential that all activities for the children are developmentally appropriate.  A two-part definition of developmentally appropriate would include the following: 

  1. Age appropriateness.  The activities that are introduced must be in accordance with the stage of learning that the child is at in order to be effective.  It is the responsibility of the teachers to prepare lessons that are in accordance with the ages and stages of the children in order to meet the objectives of the lessons.
  1. Individual appropriateness.  Each child is an unique individual with his or her

    personality and style of learning.  Again, in order to reach desired objectives,

    each lesson and activity must take into account the individual child.  The curriculum must be responsive to the individual needs and differences of each child. 

At Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool, we also recognize that children learn best if the following occur: 

    1. The child has a good self-image and is accepted, as they are, by both adults and other children.
    2. The child is given repeated opportunities to discover, explore, be challenged, and problem-solve through direct experiences.
    3. The child is given diverse choices that can lead to independence, self-confidence, self-control, and a sense of responsibility.
 The curriculum at Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool is divided into seven areas.  They are language arts, social studies, science, mathematics, physical

activities, art, and music.  Those areas are then taught through various learning centers. 

   Curriculum Topic                                                  Learning Center

Language Arts………………………………………… Story Center

                                              Writing Center

                                              Computer Center 

Social Studies…………………………………………. Block Center

                                                 Dramatic Play Center 

Science………………………………………………….  Science Center

                                                 Computer Center 

Mathematics…………………………………………..  Manipulative/Math Center

                                                 Computer Center

                                                 Block Center 

Physical Activities…………………………………… Large Motor Center

                                                 Manipulative/Math Center

                                                 Block Center 

Art……………………………………………………. Art Center

                                                 Writing Center

                                                 Computer Center 

Music………………………………………………… Music Center

                                                 Large Motor Center 
At Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool, we have researched each learning center and discovered the academic benefits of each one.

Block Center

 Block building can contribute to children’s development in physical, cognitive, language, social, emotional, and creative areas.  Children learn the physical skills of holding, stacking, and balancing the blocks.  Arms and hands are strengthened as children take the blocks off the shelves and put them back again.  The muscles in their fingers are strengthened as the children pick up smaller items and stand them in place.  Balancing the blocks also promotes eye-hand coordination.  

In addition, social skills are enhanced in the block area. They learn social skills of sharing, cooperation, taking turns, and playing cooperatively.  Also, their language is expanded through speaking and listening to each other.  Being able to build structures of their own design also enhances their creativity.   All this activity promotes a positive feeling about themselves. 

Lastly, the block center helps create a great amount of cognitive growth through skills such as categorizing, counting, sorting, and problem solving.  

Computer Center

 Again, the computer center offers opportunities for children to grow in many different areas.  For instance, three, four, and five year-olds should use the computer in pairs, not alone.  Social skills, language skills, peer teaching, and even creativity will blossom when more than one young child uses the computer at the same time.  Learning to share equipment and materials, to take turns, and to work in cooperation with others are all enhanced at the computer center.  

In addition, computers are great facilitators in cognitive growth.  Software is available in teaching shapes, sizes, colors, opposites, matching, classifying, counting, measuring, estimating, sequencing, problem solving, and memory skills.  In addition, there is even software available to promote creativity. These include many of the art programs, music, and story programs. 
 Math Center 

The particular areas that preschool children need to learn involve four areas:

    1. Classification-the ability to sort out one thing from another on the basis of its characteristics.  The child needs to discriminate visually among various shapes, sizes, and colors.  Then the child needs to be able to compare one object with another and learn that some things are alike and others are different.
    1. One-to-one correspondence-the ability to match objects one with another because they belong together.  For example, the yellow cap goes with the yellow marker and the brown cap goes on the brown marker.  The napkin on the table goes with the plate.  If there are four plates, there should be four napkins.
    1. Seriation-the ability to order objects by size, texture, taste, color, sound, and in ascending and descending order.
    1. Counting-the ability to name numbers in a fixed sequence and apply it to an object at a time, arriving at a total.  The children need to know the names of the numbers and the order of numbers and then apply one number to one object when they count (one-to-correspondence).

The above math skills can all be achieved by using such activities such as picture dominoes, lotto cards, puzzles, color bingo, tic-tac-toe, markers with caps, different colored and sized shapes and figures, and blocks. Most games involve some kind of sorting and counting. 

Story Center 

Emergent literacy does not happen through formal teaching.  It occurs in environments that are filled with print.  A few examples of print are signs, lists, records, charts, graphs, pictures, books, labels, stories, magazines, newspapers, computer programs, and food containers.

There are also several things that a teacher can do to help create emergent literacy.  For example, it occurs when teachers read books to individuals and small groups or when books are available for children to look at on their own. Also when stories are told orally for children to listen to and to respond to, and when children make up their own stories that are tape recorded or written down.  

At Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool, our story centers are created with the following criteria:

 1.   A print-rich environment.

    2.  The freedom for children to choose books and activities.  

      3.  The time to become deeply involved so that books and activities become meaningful.

      4.   Reading books to individuals and small groups daily.

      5. Providing a good selection of picture books appropriate to the children’s developmental levels.

    1. Providing interesting follow-up book activities that children can become involved with on their own.
    2. Telling stories to children from books in the Story Center.
 Writing Center 

Research evidence indicates that there is a progression from random scribbling, to controlled scribbling, to the writing of mock letters and words, and finally to real writing as children experiment and mature.  In order for this natural progression from scribbling to writing to occur, we must nurture it in our classrooms. At Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool, we fill the children’s environment with examples of writing and reading.  We must encourage and support all of the children’s attempts of writing.  In addition, it is crucial to display the children’s writing, so that they can take pride in their accomplishments.  A few examples of a print rich environment would include the following: 

Labels- everything in the classroom should have a label on it.  That includes doors, clocks, tables, furniture, grocery items, shelves, and anything else in the room.  

Names- the children’s names should be on anything that belongs to the child.  This helps tremendously with their name recognition. 

Sign-up sheets- each time a child has to sign their name to a list or paper, the more practice they have had.  

Charts- they help children visualize information. For instance, a class can chart the children’s height, weight, color of hair, and eyes.  It can also describe the classroom rules, activities, menus, and weather. 

In addition, writing centers can also enhance growth in fine motor skills, creativity, and language development. 

Art Center 

Art, like language, is a means of communication and self-expression for children.  It is visual, though, rather than verbal, and involves the elements of line, shape, color, and texture rather than words. 

It is important to realize that most young children do not begin their art projects with a picture in mind, rather they are manipulating the medium to explore learning.  All children go through a similar sequence in the development of drawing skills.  They begin with scribbles that are repeated over and over again until they emerge into shapes.  Then eventually, recognizable objects begin to appear. 

In order to facilitate the progression in art expression, Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool creates an inviting art center.  The art center must be filled with diverse mediums of art such as crayons, markers, paints, scissors, stamps, play dough, clay, tape, newspaper, magazines, ribbon, chalk, hole punches, and glitter. 

In addition, the art centers create growth in small motor development, cognitive

development, and social development. 

Music Center

 Again, like art, music is a medium for children’s communication and self-expression.  The elements of music that young children are involved with include tone, rhythm, and melody.  

Music centers should become personal for the children and they should be able to bring in records or tapes of the music that they enjoy. They should also be able to explore different musical instruments and see the cause and effect method for each one.  For example, if you shake the rattle, it makes a noise.

The children are also involved in creating musical instruments.  For example, beans in a paper towel tube that has been taped can become a shaker. 

In addition, music development encourages growth in several other areas.  Music promotes language development, creativity, and cognitive development. 

Science Center

The science center is one the best examples of how children learn through self-discovery and investigation.  Children, from infancy, are ready to explore their environment through their five senses. 
    1. Sight- children need to observe and notice things in their environment.

      In addition, to further explore, they can use magnifying glasses and binoculars to learn about their environment.  What does a lemon look like? 

    1. Sound- children usually use this sense after sight to explore an object.

      What sound does a lemon make?  Listen carefully. 

    1. Smell- children use smell all the time to help them identify and discriminate among the things in their world.  What does a lemon smell like?
    1. Taste-most children want to try most things that are edible. As children mature, however, fewer things go into their mouths.  How do different things taste?  How does the lemon taste?
    1. Touch-children learn a great deal from their sense of touch.  How does the object feel?  Describe it.  How does the lemon feel?

In order for our Science centers to be successful, they should be set up based upon topics that are of interest to the children.  A few examples of topics are children’s food, clothing, their shadows, dogs, cats, trees, grass, frogs, the sun, and rain.   

The cognitive concepts that are most appropriate for preschool children to investigate involve the properties of objects (their shape, size, color, texture, sound and odor); the actions of objects (how they move, react, balance, stand up, grow, and eat); and likeness and differences among objects.  Preschool children need not be so concerned about “why” things are the way they are, but rather “how” they look, act, and interact.

Dramatic Play Center


It is essential to realize that dramatic play is one of the most complex kinds of play that young children engage in - and perhaps the most important.  In dramatic play, children use pretending to investigate their world.  The following are examples of the benefits of Dramatic Play: 

1. Social Development


      Social roles

      Values such as honesty, service, loyalty, and truthfulness

      How to gain entrance into a group

      How to be a leader

      How to negotiate

      How to deal with people you disagree with 

  1. Cognitive Growth

    Concepts such as work, play, order, time

    Concepts of travel and transportation

    Concepts of illness, doctors, and emergencies

    Roles of families and workers

    Problem solving


  1. Language Development

    How to carry on a conversation

    How to speak as a different character

    Meanings and uses of new words

    How to express feelings in words

    Use of words as a substitute for actions 

  1. Emotional Development

    Positive self-concept

    How to express strong feelings in acceptable ways

    How to control negative tendencies

    How to deal with conflict 

  1. Physical Development

    Mastering certain motor skills( running, jumping, climbing) 

  1. Creative Development

    Divergent thinking

    New ideas, plots, and characters

Large Motor Center

 Running, jumping, climbing, and skipping are all activities associated with young children. Thus, the Large Motor Center must be set up to appeal to children’s own interest in motor skills.  Growing bodies need physical exercise in order to grow properly.  It is our responsibility at Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool to provide the opportunities for each child to practice his/her motor development.

With different activities and equipment we provide opportunities for the following activities: walking, running, galloping, jumping, hopping, leaping, crawling, creeping, balancing, bending, climbing, creative movement, throwing, catching, and riding.  
 These centers divide a classroom in such a way as to allow children to make choices, to move freely and independently, and to grow in areas of need.  They also give opportunities for a large number of children to learn individually or in smaller groups so that the teacher can take advantage of moments of learning readiness, keen interest, and desire. In a more structured grouping, these activities might not otherwise be possible. 

Our staff takes the responsibility to invite, guide, and encourage children to explore all the centers and ultimately learn in several.  The staff provides enough

opportunities to learn concepts so that, whether a child selects one center or another, the end result will be the learning necessary for that particular child’s growth.  By helping each child find that there are alternative ways of learning the same thing, the child will discover what is the best way for him or her to learn.   

By setting up a series of centers within the classroom, Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool provides the following opportunities: 

    1. For a child to make choices.
    2. For discovery and learning through direct personal experiences.
    3. To build a feeling of self-confidence and competence as a result of learning skills.
    4. To enlarge children’s vocabulary and to develop skills in communicating their ideas.
    5. For imaginative dramatic play through role-playing.
    6. To learn, to think, and to problem-solve by using a variety of materials.
    7. To develop fine and gross motor skills.
    8. To develop socially by learning to relate to others.
    9. To share and to be responsible to others as a member of a group.
    10. To use and care for materials and equipment.
    11. To complete tasks and to plan group projects.
    12. To discover and expand the learning of specific information relating to a subject.
 Once the learning centers have been prepared for the children, it is then the teacher’s responsibility to observe the children interacting with the materials and activities.  With the observations, the teacher can then determine at what developmental level each child is at and which activities would enhance their learning.   

In addition to the learning centers, the teachers will also designate a specific amount of time each day for guided lessons.  This time includes calendar time, story time, writing time, art activities, music, fingerplays, flannel board stories, games, poetry, and rhythms. Guided group time also includes outdoor (or indoors in inclement weather) when the children may be organized into a more structured group for large muscle activities, such a circle games exercises, or practicing a motor skill.  Also routine times when all the children may be eating, resting, moving in or out of doors at one time. 

It is our goal at Pleasant Run Learning Center and Preschool to allow the children to explore their own learning, but also give them guidance throughout their learning experiences. 

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