Where high school students and preschoolers learn from each other

NOTE: This is a story from 2008. The Little Knights Preschool program is still in operation, but some details may have changed.

Lake Havasu High School teacher Marie Hendry is unique among Lake Havasu Unified School District teachers in that her classroom holds children ranging from seniors in high school down to 3 years old. You might ask, how could this be? Mrs. Hendry is chairperson of Lake Havasu High’s Family and Consumer Science Department, and, along with paraprofessional Julie Herandez, she oversees the Little Knights Preschool program.

High school student Kayla works with a group of Little Knights preschoolers.
Lake Havasu High School student Kayla works with a group of Little Knights preschoolers.

Little Knights is a state licensed preschool that operates on the Lake Havasu High School Campus. It is named "Little Knights" after the High School's athletic mascot, the knight, and it has been part of the LHHS campus environment for many years. Pat Rooney, retired High School principal and current Governing Board member says it was started in 1989 by teacher Lori Hunn.  Mrs. Hendry has only been at LHHS for three years, but she says Little Knights has been around long enough that she actually sees previous preschool students now coming back as high school students who work in the preschool "lab" as part of their coursework. That is what the preschool is, a laboratory experience for high school students taking Family and Consumer Science Department classes in early childhood.

According to the high school’s course catalog, an Early Childhood class will

  • Open the door to careers in Early Childhood Education.
  • Build the knowledge, skills, and confidence necessary in working successfully with children.

During the courses, students will

  • Gain practical experience by teaching and assisting in a pre-school during lab time.
  • Develop lesson plans around thematic instruction and curriculum.
  • Have the opportunity to participate in an FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) event. (More about FCCLA later.)

Advanced early childhood class students will

  • Be responsible for parent and community communications.
  • Work on research and presentation skills.
  • Be involved with advanced units and projects that can be used in the pre-school lab.

The Little Knight Preschool is open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday when the high school is in session. There is a $10 per week per child fee. The $10 covers the cost of a daily snack and incidental expenses. All children are welcome as long as they are 3 to 5 years old, but children must be enrolled, they can’t just drop in. Preference is given to returning students and siblings of current students. Little Knights has a maximum capacity of 25 preschool students.

The preschool's hours may seem inconvenient to a parent looking for a preschool program, but this program exists to give high school students actual face time with small children in a learning environment, not to provide all-day child care, and Mrs. Hendry says they have no problem coming up with preschoolers through word of mouth referrals alone.

Preschool student work on display.
Preschooler's art work on display in the Little Knights classroom.

Little Knights preschoolers are closely monitored during their highly organized time at the school. There are currently about eighty high school students enrolled in early childhood classes. The preschool’s hours of operation extend through four different high school class periods. In theory, this makes about 20 high school students per hour available to work the preschool. Add in Mrs. Hendry and Mrs. Hernandez, and you have almost a 1 on 1 staff to preschooler ratio. In fact, some high school students will be working the sign-in desk that logs students in and out. Others will be monitoring playground activities, and still others will be supervising indoor group activities. Mrs. Hendry and Mrs. Hernandez jump in when and where they are needed. When preschool is not in session, the high school students go to a traditional classroom for their lessons.

In addition to the usual preschool things you might expect, the Little Knights make field trips around the high school campus. For example, they have visited the high school band and choir rooms to meet those students and see how they spend their class time. Preschoolers have even been involved in a mini march for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation which raised $756.23 for the charity and earned each of them a colorful T-shirt.

Overall, the goal of providing high school students with a structured and educational learning experience seems to be working, and the preschoolers are also getting a quality learning experience. As the popular expression goes, it is a win-win situation.

Marching animals on t-shirt.
Preschooler's received a special T-shirt for their participation in a fundraising event.

Many students in early childhood classes choose to join the FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) organization. The goal of FCCLA is to, "promote personal growth and leadership development through Family and Consumer Science education." Lake Havasu High School FCCLA members will be attending a competition in Phoenix in mid April. Last year, seven students from Lake Havasu High School won 2 gold, three silver, and one bronze medal at this competition. This year fourteen students will be participating.

The High School's student FCCLA organization is eligible for tax credit dollars. The money helps with various expenses, including travel to out of town events like the competition mentioned above.

If you would like more information about the Little Knights Preschool, you can call them at 854-5347.