A 5-Star Pre-K, in “What’s Cool at School”

Whats Cool at School

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A non-traditional learning structure is leading to recognized success at 9th Bridge School, as they recently received the esteemed 5-star Nevada Silver State Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Award.This marks the very highest rating QRIS can bestow.

9th Bridge School performed ‘outstanding’ in all rated areas — including staff qualifications, addressing multiple developmental domains, nutritional programs, staff-child ratios, and family engagement.

Only 28 schools in the entire state earned this honor!

We wanted to learn more about all that they are doing to reach such high levels of achievement.

We observed their Pre-K program, arriving just after nap time, and immediately noticing students putting away their cots, sheets, and blankets. This daily activity teaches self-help skills. For Pre-K students, self-reliance is discovered.

Teacher Harmoni Wallace said, “We want children to be leaders of their own life.”

One source of success, the school hired a coach to work with teachers on classroom materials, teacher/student interactions, even ways to cut down on transition time.

As Connie Yeh, the school Founder stated, “The biggest difference was having teachers that were really open to feedback.”

Students are also encouraged to explore, create, and to play!

As Wallace described, “A child’s work is play. Open ended free play where children are making their own choices, being creative, making mistakes and solving problems.”

Ample learning choices fill the classroom — from a kitchen set, to a sensory table where “floam” can be formed into wherever the imagination goes; a science station where teachers aptly included the recent grasshopper invasion, also, Play-Doh and Legos.

Another station is outdoors, where 4-year olds learn to gently care for others by giving baby dolls a bath.

Even snack time is seamlessly linked with learning. Kids use math to count how many tortilla chips to serve up.

During the course of play – kids are learning – and having fun doing so. One Pre-K student, Benji Jauregui, told me enthusiastically “I like pre-school!” His classmate Anna Howard piped in, “I love that I have my teachers!”

I inquired if there is a secret to their recognized success….

Their teacher, Ms. Wallace, summed it up, “Open-ended play, a lot of free choice, and rich conversations between kids and the staff…..those are the main elements of a 5-Star QRIS rating.”

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