Cathy S. Judd, Van Osdell, Mary Ann | 10/16/2007 12:34:45 AM
The LSU AgCenter’s Character Critters program at the Paul E. Slaton Head Start Center in Ruston is producing immediate results, said one teacher.
Karen Hall said parents have become more involved in helping their children complete critter homework and display better manners. And the children are enthusiastic about possibly winning a medal for having the best character attributes for the week.
Brittany Schimmel, a Louisiana Tech University student majoring in family and child studies, volunteered to teach 30-minute segments with seven classes of 4-year-olds --150 students in all. She began Sept. 13 and is part of an ongoing project, said Cathy Judd, LSU AgCenter agent.
Schimmel uses animal puppets after reading a story. Rusty the Respectful Raccoon was featured on Oct. 11, and the take-home lesson was to draw a self-portrait. Schimmel told the children that everyone is different but should be treated with respect.
She had the children stand up when she used a sentence demonstrating respect and sit down when respect wasn’t being represented. They rose for “saying thank you,” “picking up their toys” and “saying yes ma’am” and sat back down for “yelling at mom” and “hitting others.”
Hall and the other teachers go over the lesson after Schimmel presents it and display posters of that week’s trait. The traits are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
The children will receive a book and certificate upon completion of the lessons. Parents have also received a letter explaining each week’s trait.
The children have watched videos, sung, danced and made a caring tree.
“I feel like a celebrity coming in,” said Schimmel. She is greeted by hugs and waves, and children recognize her car when it pulls up. Child life students such as Schimmel must complete a minimum of 240 hours of practical experiences. She said the Character Critters program has served as a practical application of previously studied theory.
Head Start, a federal program for preschool children from low-income families, prepares children for kindergarten. Oct. 8 was Head Start Awareness Week, and special activities at the Ruston Head Start included a parade, muffins with mom and donuts with dad.