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STEAM, the school district's science- and technology-focused preschool, opens in Pleasanton

City, civic leaders, teachers and school administrator turn out for opening celebration

City, civic and Pleasanton school district representatives, including teachers and administrators, celebrated the opening of the district's science- and technology-focused preschool Friday.

The Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) preschool officially opened for students on Jan. 4, welcoming eight excited toddlers and young children. About 40 people, including city and school officials from Pleasanton and nearby communities, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning to commemorate the opening of the preschool.

The preschool was given a certificate of recognition from the offices of state Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, Congressman Eric Swalwell and county supervisor Nate Miley.

"It's been a cultivation of a lot of people's dreaming and work," said Traci Peterson, the STEAM preschool program director, "and it's great to see it in action."

The preschool aims to focus on growing critical thinking and collaborative skills, and teachers use students' interests to shape the curriculum. Peterson said preparation for the school has been a yearslong process.

"It's definitely the direction any educational institution should be moving toward for us to be competitive in a world marketplace," school board president Jamie Hintzke said.

The school mirrors the trend of immersing children in an environment where they are learning fundamental concepts essential to math, science and technology at an early age. Focusing on STEM courses has been an increasingly popular educational concept in recent years, and preschools are now starting to catch on, too, in the Bay Area.

In San Jose, the Harker School was one of the first schools to offer STEM preschool classes in 2013, and other area schools offer science-and-tech instruction for their pre-school, transitional kindergarten and other early education classes.

Pleasanton's new preschool, which currently has eight children enrolled, is made up of two classrooms with several stations for play, including nooks for playing house, playing with blocks, reading and exploring.

Everything in the preschool is intentionally chosen to help students develop essential early skills while also expanding their curiosity and excitement for learning, said preschool lead Shannon Colacchia.

After the ribbon-cutting, 4-year-old Olive Leuten intently focused on building a tower with magnetic shapes while teacher Amanda Galbreath looked on, asking her questions about how certain shapes fit together.

"I think these are definitely tools for them to be more innovative," Galbreath said.

She said much of the instruction brings in the natural world, and students' curiosity is what drives educational topics. This week, students learned about how worms live underground after finding some in the courtyard and learned how ingredients go together to make a meal while baking cornbread.

The school is run through the Pleasanton Unified School District, but it is self-funded through tuition, Peterson said. The school can enroll up to 48 children, and children do not have to live in Pleasanton to attend the school.

Tuition is $1,350 a month for full-time, $930 a month for Monday, Wednesday and Friday instruction and $620 a month for Tuesday and Thursday instruction.

Eight reduced-rate spots for low-income families will be available as of Feb. 1, Peterson said. The rates are based upon personal income.

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15 people like this
Posted by JustAMom
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Jan 18, 2016 at 10:57 am

Immediately I was interested in this school because of the curriculum, however upon visiting the site it didn't seem much different than other pre-schools I've visited. As far as the curriculum, I was a little dissapointed to hear that the educators were only required to have their early childhood and development units completed rather than their higher education credentials complete. It seems like this ridiculously high tuition would at the very least require this? I would have probably enrolled my daughter, otherwise.

33 people like this
Posted by Strange decision by pusd
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Jan 18, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Does it make you feel better that the educators are union workers making 40% more than their private sector childcare peers? I didn't think so.

With all that PUSD has on it's over loaded paper plate, I'm disappointed the board would approve time and resources for a new preschool. Aren't we paying the district to provide K-12?

And why the "A" (arts)? STEM's goal has always been a laser focus on building our nation's technology independence, because we are being lapped by other nations. Why dilute that focus with arts? Might as well add History and PE. What about Language? There's a point that it's just called "education" after enough dilution, and the original focus is lost. Not trying to "diss" the arts, but focusing on something requires, uh..., focus.

7 people like this
Posted by Sue
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jan 18, 2016 at 9:38 pm

First, a good preschool teacher depends MUCH more on the creativity and sincere love of children than on a certification from the state. Many local preschool teacher listens to the kids, find their interests and then plan accordingly.

As a certified teacher myself, why be so negative about this preschool? Yes, many programs concentrate on STEM, science, technology, engineering and math. This school is wise to add A for arts. Many people say "I wouldn't have made it through high school if it weren't for the jazz band or the choir or the musicals." I'm proud to be a resident of Pleasanton where there's an after school mariachi band program. Many students who struggled in my math classes were amazing artists. The arts enrich our lives long after our formal school has ended.

Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jan 19, 2016 at 5:20 am

GRAMMAR CORRECTION: Many local preschool teachers listen to their kids, find their interests and plan accordingly.

28 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jan 19, 2016 at 9:34 pm

I do not understand the district's decision to open a preschool. And I'm especially confused by the focus on STEAM. Really, what preschool isn't focused on these things? We call them building blocks and tinker toys and duplos and paint brushes and easels. Any preschool in this town has all of those elements. I think it's scary to start cramming instructional learning in these areas down the throats of our little ones. Let kids be kids. Let play be play. And let every exploration, every curiosity be an opportunity to teach about science and engineering and literacy and the arts. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that if we teach complex engineering skills to a 3 year old, somehow that child will be better prepared for the job market. Better prepared for therapy because of the academic pressure in PRESCHOOL, but not better prepared for the job market. Such arrogance.

15 people like this
Posted by Spot on Leslie!
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Jan 20, 2016 at 4:51 am

Great observation Leslie! PUSD also will be teaching the kids "horizontal meditative relaxation". Fancy huh? Simple folk call it "nap time"!! I had two kids who went to Gingerbread, and the fun and creative curriculum could also have been pitched as STEAM. Except they were too busy taking great care of kids to hire a marketing and communications team to exaggerate it to the public.

Am I reading this article correctly, that only 8 kids signed up after the district childcare leader told the board that there was huge demand? The trustees bit this hook, line, and sinker. No one asked for a study on whether a new preschool was needed, much less on whether parents wanted a STEAM focus. In the private sector, a company would demand an analysis of the market, projections and someone would be fired if their project failed. At PUSD we just move money around, spend it, and take Ribbon Cutting pictures to show everyone how great we are. Trustees, get ready to show the return on this investment. That ROI needs to include the opportunity cost associated with the building and land, now underutilized. Leslie is right, the arrogance of the district is insulting to its taxpayers.

3 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 20, 2016 at 7:02 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

The site has been there for years, first for the younger children of all district employees. It was originally run by the district, then others (at least two?). I would imagine it is expensive to enroll and, if it is a lot more expensive, enrollment will suffer. It also is a waste to let it sit empty. I haven't looked into this, but why not make it a Transitional Kindergarten site with after school care? Although it is district dollars for TK, the facility would be in use and some of the cost covered by the after school program.

The STEAM marketing isn't bothersome; those whose have enrolled their children will decide if their children benefit or if it is at least convenient enough to justify the cost.

8 people like this
Posted by STEM Vs. STEAM or hot air?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm

THANKS, "Strange decision by pusd"
for your insight, and comments.

Our country does have a critical shortage of Engineers and trained Technical people.
STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is one effort to help educate our future inventors, designers, research people. Remember Sputnik?

But adding an "A" in the middle of STEM seems like a stretch, and not very appropriate.
In a preschool, I'm not sure what you call it matters,
they will have coloring books, water colors, and other "Art" anyway!

2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Here's an article on the importance of art in early childhood education: Web Link Motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness, improved academic performance.

7 people like this
Posted by Steam
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2016 at 1:06 pm

The term STEM has been changing to STEAM in recent years. PUSD did not make this term, anyone in education is familiar with it. The changing demographics and tech families of Pleasanton will definitely support this preschool. Every new school takes some time to start up, plus this opened midway through the year, while kids were already going sonewhere else. I think it was a fine decision and I wish it was an option while my kids were still in preschool. Web Link

12 people like this
Posted by Sue
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 21, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Leslie is Spot On! Why would PUSD decide to have a third attempt at operating a preschool at this location. YMCA and Kidango couldn't make a go of it.

Resources could have been put to better use........who pays this tab for all the renovations and costs associated with the STEAM Preschool?

With 8 children enrolled it can't be covering it's costs!

Like this comment
Posted by Joy
a resident of Dublin
on Jan 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm

Preschool goes this way and that way
Have you ever been happy
With your preschool
Ask yourself that!
Some programs
Are worth the time
To check out
Before you knock it
Ask about it
Before you judge it
Go see it
The importance of play
Is needed
This philosophy is taking
A huge leap
with all schools
It's not
A phase nor
A fad
It's the newer
Generation of
Nothing wrong
With that
It might not be for your child
You can look into others
Some sound
Too high strung
Genius kids
The want your child reading by the age
Learning about van go
At a young age
Doesn’t Sound
As learning
How a worm comes
Out of the ground!
Touching it feeling it
Drawing about it
All of these it STEAM
Play is important
It teaches socialization
How to speak up
Enhance their
Reason for TK
Is the maturity of the child
They are having a hard time
Sitting, listing and advocating
You can’t teach a child
Thru a ditto because
They are only looking
Inside the box
Other programs
Offer more
I know preschool
So before
We judge it
Let's all go
See it!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.