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.