Alex Snow , Reporter

You may have noticed that there is a playground over by hall three. Sometimes one can see toddlers playing on the equipment. Have you ever wondered why it’s there? Well, it turns out that Olympia High School has its own preschool program. This program is known as Oly Bear. The name can seem kind of vague, but in this class, Olympia High School students can take part in an early childhood education class. Parents of children ages three to five can bring their kids to Olympia High School’s own preschool program. Oly Bear student Mary van Mill explains what it is that Olympia High School students do in this class. “We act as aides to the teachers. We do things like helping the kids, setting up crafts, keep the kids distracted and give instructions.”

The preschool children come from all over the place. “The preschool is made up of children from the Olympia and Greater Thurston county area.” Early Childhood Education Teacher Mrs. Jensen says. “It is a private tuition based preschool and provides parents with a unique opportunity for their child to work one on one with a high school buddy.” Van mill adds “…one of the kids lives right across the street from me.”

The preschool is filled with about thirty kids. That’s a lot of little kids for three teachers, especially when there’s also ninety four high school students. Since there are so many kids, they are split into two groups. “There are two sessions,” Mrs. Jensen says, “an AM class for three, four, and five year olds, and a PM class for children ages four and five.” These two sessions are spread across four high school periods, specifically second, third, fifth and sixth.

This program has been a part of Olympia High School for a long time. “Olympia’s ECE and Oly Bear class and preschool began in 1979 and was established as a learning lab for students enrolled in Early Childhood Education classes,” Mrs. Jensen says. “It provided the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge of child development theory and develop the necessary skills needed to work as professionals in an early childhood education setting.”

Parents can get involved in the class in a lot of ways. “Parents and extended family participate in events throughout the year in which they have an opportunity to meet their High School ‘buddy’,” Jensen says. “Examples of some of our annual parent/child events are Stone Soup in November, Moms and Muffins and Dads and Doughnuts in May, and our end of the year picnic. Parents are always welcome and encouraged to spend time in the preschool.”

Students in this class also have a chance to get some college credits. “…Students can earn a college credit through SPSCC if they receive a B or better both first and second semester,” Jensen says. “Students who would like to continue their learning experience can apply for and, if accepted, take Advanced Oly Bear, where they will work directly with preschool staff in developing curriculum, daily lesson plans, and be involved with direct supervision on children’s activities.”