Focus
Building Blocks Academy Kindergarten Program Planned
By MARY KATHERINE EVANS
Correspondent

Building Blocks Learning Center will be starting a new Kindergarten program in September 2014, in a school called Building Blocks Academy. The motto for the new school is “Building Foundations for the Growing Mind.” This private Kindergarten program will be licensed by the PA Department of Education.

Zubeen Saeed, president and CEO of Building Blocks, explains she and Allison Davis, Executive Director of Academic Development, decided to create this Kindergarten program as part of a school expansion that will include students up to sixth grade. Zubeen and Allison’s views on education focus on individualized attention and a more private setting conducive to learning. Zubeen relates that she and Allison “wanted to come up with a program where we can individualize and fix what is lacking out there.”

At two informational sessions held February 12 at the Kirby Library, Zubeen and Allison stressed their goal for the Kindergarten program is to create well-rounded individuals who can flourish in everything they do. The Building Blocks Academy’s Kindergarten program will include the interactive and comprehensive Willow Tree Academic Curriculum, a focus on hands-on learning and individualized support, and small class size with accredited teacher and aide. The curriculum includes: Language Arts, Science, Math, Creative Arts, Foreign Language, Social Studies, Culture, Social and Emotional Development. They pointed out there are schools and Kindergarten programs that focus more on teaching to the test, and as a result, “lose the child.”

Allison briefly discussed the new Common Core Program in public school, which has a focus on math and reading. She commented that in most schools “teachers get very stifled,” since they have to teach in a way that the students learn what they need to know for the standardized tests.

She adds those programs “rarely do art or science.” Their program will include Physical Education, and even a foreign language, which will be Chinese.

The importance of learning at a young age was also part of the presentation. “Under age eight, children are a sponge,” Zubeen said. “We need to nurture and develop the arts and other programs like science before they get to that age.”

Part of their new program involves giving students a Toolbox of Knowledge. As students begin in the Kindergarten program, they will receive an actual toolbox, which they will fill with skills that they learn along their way through the program. Students will earn tokens to put in their toolbox, such as problem solving skills. Then, later in the program, when they face a problem, they can pull out their “problem solving skills” out of the toolbox.

Allison demonstrated what a science class might look like in their Kindergarten program. She stated the students will learn about insects, put them in groups and learn to build an insect using craft supplies like felt, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and googly eyes. Once they finish building their insect, the students will be told to build a “home” for it, and to make food for their bug. After the project is completed, the groups will present their insect to the class. The project teaches the students problem solving and leadership skills.

Presently in school, Zubeen believes “students don’t get the opportunity to be individuals, and we need to instill that at this early stage.” This new program also aims to nurture the family as well as the individual student, so parents are assuming just as much responsibility for educating their children as the school.

Instead of a traditional grading system, Zubeen and Allison explained that students will be assessed in the following skill levels: Beginner Skills, Developmental Skills, and Mastery Skills. This way, if a student is at Beginner Skills in a certain area, but Mastery Skills in another, the teachers will know in what areas the student will need more help. Assessments for the students will be provided in October, January, and the end of May to see how the student has grown.

The learning and teaching style of their program is described as cyclical so students will not forget things once they are tested on it. Allison gave an example of a lesson involving lakes and rivers. She noted instead of just learning the lesson and forgetting it, they will go back later and bring up that lesson when a lesson on boats comes up. The information will be

BUILDING BLOCKS PLANS KINDERGARTEN PROGRAM-Building Blocks Learning Center is planning to open the Building Blocks Academy’s Kindergarten Program for the 2014-2015 school year. Two information presentations on the program were recently offered at the Kirby Library. Shown at the presentation are Zubeen Saeed, Pres/CEO; Blake Gemzik, Executive Director; and Allison Davis, Executive Director of Academic Development.

reinforced in the students’ minds, in case they did not understand it as well the first time they had the material.

Presently, there are three different options available for where the school will be located, but it will still be in Mountaintop. The first option is a new building separate from the daycare, the second is a rental space that will be individualized for what they need and the final option will be an addition on to the daycare. They hope to have a decision made by May 2014.

Zubeen and Allison are working with local school districts for bussing the students to the school. They hope to have 17 students in the program, but must have at least six. Applications for teachers have been received; a teacher will be chosen by May. Registration for this program will begin March 15 and end on April 15.

The students will have to bring their own lunches, but the school will provide a snack during the day. Though not required to have a school nurse, the support staff will ensure that the students are well taken care of. The curriculum, which has been approved by the Department of Education, includes incorporating technology into the classroom, but not television. Allison notes students “will not be watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when they cannot go outside for recess.” Their program also includes before school care and after care. Eventually, they want to have community-based scholarships to help with the $5,000 per year tuition.

“Mountaintop is an awesome community!” exclaimed Zubeen, remarking she would like to tap into the activism in the area. “We have been on this mission for a year and a half and are excited to see it start taking off.” In order to get the work out, Zubeen and Allison plan on networking with clubs and organizations in the community.

Zubeen and Allison stressed that the building where their program will be held will be a secure building, and the program will be really good for the students. Zubeen concluded, “We want to pay a lot of attention to the process, not the product.”

For further information, parents can call Allison at 570-793-3594.