Preschool Summer Program
A long-term volunteer helps children improve their language skills.
August 28, 2017 - Dominican Republic
This summer, 11 children aged three to six participated in a preschool-like program for three hours each morning, focusing on building their language skills.
With the help of two tia’s (caregivers), one nun, and a long-term volunteer, each day we followed the same schedule full of child-friendly activities such as singing, reading stories, small group activities, outside time, and individual reading time.
Children learn through play and experiences, and this program provided them with specific opportunities to develop their language skills.
Previously during my 18 months (2015-2016) in the Dominican Republic as a volunteer Speech and Language Therapist, I saw a need for a program that would help them with their descriptive abilities. For four weeks in the summer, we focused specifically on describing colors, sizes and quantities, in addition to sequencing events and retelling stories. Building these foundational skills help these children continue to increase their educational expectations of themselves. We read these main books throughout the four week program: Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes, Mouse Paint, The Little Mouse, The Red-Ripe Strawberry, The Hungry Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Each of these books lent themselves to fun, child-friendly activities that met the goals of the program.
When asked what their favorite part of the program was, most of the children said the singing and dancing. But I really noticed our children’s minds growing during free choice time, when they were able to choose from a variety of activities such as puzzles, arts and crafts, blocks, or books, and often received individualized attention with an adult during this time. Prior to their lives at NPH, several of our children did not have access to “typical” developmentally appropriate toys, and now giving them the opportunity to explore new things while developing their brains is incredible to watch. It is beautiful to see their faces light up when they figure out how to form a puzzle for the first time, or use their imagination to make instruments out of connecting tubes, for example.
My favorite part of the morning program was the small group time; here the children participated in a variety of activities, such as making popsicle-stick patterns, sorting objects by color or size, and making paint bear paws. During this time I really was able to focus my attention on teaching direct skills.
Throughout the whole summer, the help and support I received from the local NPH staff exceeded my expectations. Not only were they very helpful with keeping the children in order, but they got to experience first hand how these children are learning and see ways that they can continue to develop these skills day to day after the program has finished. The best way to build a sustainable program is to get the buy-in of the people you are working with and train them on how to continue the program long after you are gone. I have no doubt that the many things our children learned this summer will continue to grow because of the hard work of the caregivers. This summer has had some beautiful learning opportunities and I am ever-so-grateful for the dedication and support of our caregivers and teachers here at NPH-DR. I just hope that I have helped in some small way!
Speech and Language Therapist