One of Turlock First United Methodist Church’s core values has always been caring for the community’s children, whether it be through their nursery care, Sunday School program or Junior and Senior High Fellowship Groups. Now, the church is adding another feature for the youth of Turlock with the development of Little Lights Preschool, an extension of the church’s educational and outreach ministries shared through a preschool curriculum.
“The church went through a process about three years ago where we did a visioning process. What did we feel were our core values as a church?” said Pastor Joe Major. “One of those core values is children, so we started looking at things that would specifically address ministry to youth and one of our vision ideas was to create a preschool.”
Little Lights Preschool, which is expected to open in early fall, will offer classes with an integrated, theme-based curriculum for children ages 3-5. Director Karen Talloni explained that the theme-based curriculum will involve weekly or biweekly topics which lessons and activities will revolve around.
“If the theme is apples, the children will do math that might involve counting apples, or they might make apple crafts or make apple sauce,” said Talloni.
Talloni relocated to Turlock from Connecticut in December, and though she is new to the community, preschool education is something she is very familiar with. Previously, Talloni served as head teacher at Christ Church Nursery School in Eason, Connecticut, where she was responsible for organizing and maintaining a nurturing environment for students, as well as filling in for the school’s director on occasion. The experience prepared her for her new job as director of Little Lights Preschool, she said.
“We are so pleased to welcome Karen onboard as our director,” said Little Lights Board Chair Chuck Cox. “Karen possesses the hands-on experience, skills and love for children that our Board was looking for in a director. We are confident she will serve as a positive, spiritually-guided role model for the children and preschool staff.”
Talloni brought several ideas with her from Connecticut to Little Lights Preschool, like the school’s Mommy and Me Program and its Afternoon Enrichment Program. The Mommy and Me Program is unique to Little Lights and is a weekly class meant to familiarize both mother and child with the preschool, along with providing an opportunity for socializing and forming connections with other children and parents. The program is not just limited to mothers, however; dads, grandparents and guardians are also welcome.
“It’s nice for the parents because they get to meet each other and form a little bond,” said Talloni.
The preschool’s Afternoon Enrichment Program is an additional service which follows the school’s morning session. For an extra fee, children can stay at Little Lights longer and experience activities which enhance the themed curriculum, including additional projects and playtime.
Along with the programs and other typical things one would expect a child to learn in preschool, such as reading, cooking, science and crafts, Little Lights Preschool will also incorporate religion into the curriculum’s framework. Each day starts with a morning prayer, said Talloni, and other activities throughout the day will include saying grace with meals, Bible stories read aloud to the class and Bible-themed crafts.
“It teaches lessons,” said Talloni. “They learn to treat their neighbor as they want to be treated and to love everyone. That’s all part of the learning, sharing, caring and empathy that goes into a regular day.”
Many of the city’s preschools require students being placed on a waitlist before enrollment, which is something that Little Lights hopes to relieve parents of. Though the school will not be open until early fall, Little Lights is currently accepting enrollment applications for their 3-year old class. Once the preschool is up and running, enrollment for the 4-year olds class and 5-year olds class will be available, according to Talloni.
The 3-year old class is a play and theme-based class which focuses on the development of social, cognitive and fine and large motor skills. The 4’s class and 5’s class will take some objectives from the 3’s class, along with an additional focus on kindergarten preparation as well as development of early literacy and math skills.
“It all plays a big part in forming who they are and who they’re going to become, and this is going to give them a very good foundation to help them become lifelong learners,” said Talloni.
Little Lights is also currently offering tours, though the classrooms may look different once the preschool opens thanks to renovations. A community open house date for mid-September will also be announced shortly. To book a tour, contact Talloni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enrollment applications and pricing, as well as the preschool’s policies and parent handbook, can be found at www.littlelightsturlock.org. Little Lights Preschool is located at Turlock First United Methodist Church, 1660 Arbor Way and can be reached at 209-585-0632.