LEAPing into a new school year

Things have changed tremendously in the world, but the current environment will not prevent the Durham Children’s Initiative’s (DCI) Latino Education Achievement Program (LEAP) Academy from beginning Sept. 14, as we continue to prepare our youth for Kindergarten.We are starting our school year with online instruction, providing a personalized classroom setting through Zoom. To do this, we will provide each student with their own tablet so they can participate in virtual activities such as circle time, snack time, and physical education. Additionally, our teachers will put together supply kits every other week so that each student has the supplies necessary for their lessons and activities ― resources made available thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation.

Other highlights planned for the LEAP Academy this fall include continuing our partnership with Bee Downtown, which will consist of two visits. The first visit will be a live Zoom session where the students will view the beehives. The second visit will consist of the in-person honey pot fill-up in our parking lot where children will be able to help harvest the honey from their hives. We will also partner with Durham’s Innovative Nutrition Education (DINE) where nutrition specialists will hold snack-time education with students, provide garden kits with tools for students, and provide nutritional classes for our parents. They will also provide our parents with digital resources.

The Durham Children’s Initiative (DCI) Latino Education Achievement Program (LEAP) Academy was created to fill a gap for 3- and 4-year old children who otherwise would have no preschool experience before entering Kindergarten. Without the DCI LEAP Academy, these children would be at home with a family member until walking through the big doors of an elementary school on the first day of Kindergarten. Some of these children would be separating from their parents for the first time and entering a world that operates with such different rules, expectations, and often even different languages.

DCI’s LEAP Academy is a high-quality, bilingual preschool in a developmentally appropriate setting. It is a caring, supportive environment that is enriching and engaging, but not overstimulating. At the DCI LEAP Academy, we address all areas of development, including physical, social-emotional, language, and cognition. The children are engaged in hands-on learning ― there are lots of questions and conversations ― and we support, love, care for, talk about feelings, and explore conflict resolution with the children.  

What is unique about the approach of the DCI LEAP Academy is that it reflects the research on how young children learn and how they learn the language. We engage the children in creative, rich learning experiences strengthening their first language, while also teaching a second one. We also engage in a child-led curriculum that allows lessons and activities to be prepared based on what the child is interested in. Student-initiated learning is the way young children learn when allowed to play in hands-on discovery. Our teachers help the children take their understanding to the next level, while also promoting critical thinking.

Over the last four-and-one-half years, the DCI LEAP Academy has achieved a 93 percent Kindergarten readiness rate. While our world of normalcy has been disrupted, our DCI LEAP Academy is still here and open to provide an exciting world for children whose day-to-day lives are often filled with very real challenges. The DCI LEAP Academy would not be possible without the continuous support of the Meldrum Foundation and the PNC Foundation.