Harmony School receives funding for new early learning program

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Harmony School kindergarten students enjoy the dinosaur dig station as part of the play-to-learn program. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

 CULLMAN, Ala. – On March 23, Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced grants to fund pre-K through third grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning (P3) in 34 new classrooms across the state. Among the schools receiving grant money is Harmony School.  

 Harmony School will receive $30,000 in funding to help expand the P3 program into two first grade classrooms. The program is already being implemented in pre-K and kindergarten classrooms at the school. Harmony Principal Kevin Sullins explained the benefits of the P3 program, “We’ve been doing it for three years and what it does is help the students to be more proficient in reading and math, and it gives them a jump on kindergarten.”  

 Initially the P3 program was implemented in the pre-K program and by the following year, kindergarten teachers reported seeing a noticeable difference in those who attended the program versus those who had not. Sullins said, “What this is, is learning through play-social things, learning to get along with one another, learning to share while also learning reading and math.” 

 The P3 classrooms are set up with different stations such as a kitchen and living room. The children learn lessons and life skills through play at each station. Sullins explained, “In today’s world of everything being so technology driven, this is kind of the old school of getting back to knowing how to get along, how to cope, how to share and how to play with each other in a good way.”  

 Elaine Wren, instructional coach at Harmony, is thrilled to be receiving the $30,000 to expand the P3 program beyond kindergarten. She said of the P3 classroom hands-on approach, “The kids sit on the rug for the day’s lesson then they just bring it to life.” 

 Sullins and Wren gave the Tribune a tour of the P3 classrooms Tuesday afternoon. The students were engaged as they completed hands-on learning activities on the lessons their teachers presented. One classroom was learning of dinosaurs and rather sitting idle at their desks, students were busy with fun dinosaurrelated activities. Disguised as play, the children were participating in memorable learning activities.  

 The teachers at Harmony have embraced the P3 program, both newcomers and veterans alike. First grade teacher Rhonda Bagwell has been teaching for over 20 years and she will be incorporating the P3 program into her classroom this fall. “We are excited! We’ll still have to teach our standards, but I hope by incorporating all this, it will be engaging to them (students)and they’ll be more hand’s on, a lot of problem-solving.”  

 Sullins pointed out that test scores for Mrs. Bagwell’s students are already high and her and other teachers embracing this new program shows how beneficial P3 has been so far for pre-K and kindergarten students. He added, “Our teachers don’t have to do this. They want to do this!” 

 Sullins is very grateful for Mrs. Wren, who has handled all the paperwork for applying for grants to implement the P3 program. He said, “I really want to brag on her. There’s no way I could do all that and the paperwork. We are fortunate that she has done all that and saw the need.”  

 Since implementing the P3 program into their pre-K class three years ago, testing scores have improved as well as other areas, including behavior. Sullins also reported that parents are happy with the program. So much so that Harmony school now has a waitlist of students hoping to attend Harmony’s pre-K program and beyond.  

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com