Preschool to after school: YMCA at home at Fairview

Photo and story by Samantha Tipler | Herald and News

Preschool teacher Divina Castaneda reads to children at the YMCA at Fairview.
Preschool teacher Divina Castaneda reads to children at the YMCA at Fairview.

In a classroom at what was once the Fairview Elementary School, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds make holiday pine cones, color and draw, cut out fun shapes, play with toy houses, dig in bins full of seeds and piece together tracks for race cars.

It might look like a lot of fun, but more is happening than just play.

“This is what we do daily. We problem solve,” said Charlene Shaw. “It’s all done through interactive play.”

Shaw is the YMCA of Klamath Falls Youth Development Director. She helps run the preschool, after school and school release programs at the YMCA at Fairview, which has been the home of these programs for two years.

Fairview Elementary closed its doors in the spring of 2013. In January 2014, the Klamath Falls City Schools gave the 97-year-old building to the YMCA. That summer the YMCA summer camp started there and that fall the preschool program moved from the Y’s main building on Alameda Avenue.

Now in it’s second year, the preschool is growing like gangbusters.

It started with two classes in the fall. Now there are three. In January it will expand to a fourth.

“We just keep growing. We’re, daily, adding kids,” Shaw said. “It’s good-ridiculous.”

Each class has a maximum of 20 children. As if this week, there were 69 preschoolers. Some attend on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, some attend on Tuesday and Thursday, and some — about 40 — attend every day. On Fridays they go to they Y for swim lessons.

The YMCA at Fairview’s preschool program focuses on what’s called executive function, or EF. It’s the brain process that allows people to plan, initiate and complete an activity while controlling their temper, maintaining attention and responding to feedback, according to a flier from the YMCA.

Rather than just focusing on the basic learning blocks like names of colors and knowing numbers, the YMCA’s program focuses on teaching the young children to think analytically. Games and activities teach them how to overcome emotional impulses and develop EF.

Researchers believe these skills will help when students progress into the K-12 system.

Shaw believes housing the preschool at the old Fairview school also helps get the children ready for kindergarten.

“They’re already in a school building so they’re just transitioning from one school to another,” she said. “It makes a huge difference. Then there is no fear when they go into another huge building. It’s the same exact thing to them. They already go into a gym, into a cafeteria, into a library. They’re used traveling inside the school. And so it’ll just be a normal day for them when they go into a kindergarten setting.”

Preschool to after school: YMCA at home at Fairview
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