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Mini Knights Program Brings Preschoolers to North for Child Development Classes


Credit to Holly Samuels

Student Maddison Musil plays kitchen with a child a part of the Mini Knights preschool program located in room 136 every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This program has a $50 fee and takes place Feb. 25 through Apr. 24. They watch children ages three to five and practice hands-on learning to get children ready for kindergarten. To see more photos.

Seeing kids roam the halls of Francis Howell North isn’t anything new, but when there are kids who aren’t even 5 years old, people start to notice. The Mini Knights Preschool Lab program, finally getting to kick off after COVID, brings kids from alumni, students’ families and other community members to FHN for an hour and a half of student-led education every school day.

“My favorite part of the preschool was the funny one-on-one moments with the kids,” sophomore Hannah Button said.

Students from the Child Development II and III classes, taught by Sarah White, take the lead. Applying everything they learned in Child Development I and building upon their skills as the semester progresses, the students decide what they want to do each day and how they want to structure their time with the Mini Knights. 

“My students decided what philosophy we wanted to work with, the activities that we were going to run, they are actually the ones who write the activity plans and implement those, they’re the ones who are serving snack and cleaning up and doing all those things,” White said.

The activities each day are set up so it is a play-based, child directed program to engage the children as much as possible. The children have choices of what they want to do every day, with different activities for different developmental levels and different subjects, including literacy, fine motor, math, science, art, music and reading.

“The children engage in what looks like totally free play, but really there are purposeful activities that have been created that are also happening at the same time, depending on who’s running that activity it may be very subtle and the outside eye might not notice, other children may be engaged in something that’s more directed in how it’s going,” White said.

After the first three weeks of the original run of the Mini Knights program in 2020, COVID shut everything down. While there was no longer a need to start from scratch, the program had to wait until this year to finally reboot and get the children back in the building. This year’s program lasted from March 1 to May 6 with plans to improve and return next year and many years to come.

“It’s been a big learning curve, the first time we did this we only got through three weeks and so in so many ways this is our first year, and next year will be even better and it’s going to keep going from there,” White said.