St. James Church Day School giving children head start with program for 3-year-olds


CLINTON — Keeping in mind that fun and play is an integral part of learning, St. James’ Church Day School at 9 Williams St. is expanding with the addition of a new program for 3-year-olds.

Day School Board President Catrina M. Dibble said last year the school conducted a pilot program in which five children enrolled and “it worked out really well.”

“We noticed that other programs were getting filled and many families were placed on waiting lists,” said Dibble, adding that the school recognized the need for a program that served young toddlers in the community. “As a mom myself, I wanted to see a program that just met a few hours, and our program runs 9-11:30 a.m. This program helps them (3-year-olds) get ready for the next year of preschool.”

But not only does the program prepare children to start preschool the following year, it also gets them ready for their school years ahead.

“We recognize that more is expected of children in kindergarten today, and we want to be sure they are fully prepared socially and academically,” said Cindy Wirene, current St. James’ Day School board member and former head teacher for more than 30 years at the school. “We are thrilled to add this program and continue to provide families with a fun, safe, developmental approach to learning.”

For families who are looking for either a traditional preschool or an educational alternative to day care, the Day School offers children ages 3-5 thorough preparation for kindergarten by providing safe, affordable early childhood education solutions.

The programs are specifically designed to ensure that every child engages in developmentally appropriate activities that will direct them to reach their highest potential.

“A main focus throughout each day is for our students to learn to listen to instructions and follow directions, as well as navigate social interactions with their classmates. Teaching these skills is extremely important in preparing them for kindergarten,” said Wirene. “We are definitely providing a program to young children in the community and surrounding area that offers an enhanced preschool experience.”

Dibble said learning is achieved through a concentration on socialization that teaches young children basic character skills through interaction, like sharing and following directions.

The year before preschool “can be a challenge, especially if they haven’t been away from their parents,” said Dibble. “Here the kids get to be in an academic setting, and they learn so much from play, like sharing and taking turns. It’s so nice to see them willing to help each other and work together.”

To help encourage growth of the whole child, as well as to prepare students for kindergarten, specific learning goals are:

• To enhance language and literacy development through books and writing/dictating.

• To strengthen oral communication and expression (for example to “show and tell” and to be encouraged to “use words.”).

• To develop listening skills (following directions, listening to stories, etc.).

• To introduce science concepts (growing, seasons, weather, senses, simple experiments).

• To introduce math concepts (graphing, sorting, size and spatial concepts.

• To develop critical thinking and cooperation.

There are two rooms that make up the Day School’s teaching environment, and children are free to explore the different activities in each room.

“It’s teaching them independence, and together, they learn about rules and they’re learning to follow instructions,” Dibble said.

Head Teacher and Lunch Bunch Co-Teacher Abby Stahl said when children arrive each morning, they have free play until 10 a.m.

“Then they sit and we’ll have them do a project,” Stahl said.

“But there’s no pushing — there’s no need to finish a project today, they can always finish it tomorrow. There’s no pressure,” Dibble added.

Materials and projects include:

Free play with puzzles, games, blocks, animals, a dramatic play area, and a water/sand table; teacher-directed activities and projects as well as student directed activities and projects; and a listening center, writing center, books and a wide variety of arts and crafts materials.

Projects are based on a current theme and literature. There are also large group motor activities that include music and movement.

Stahl explained that many activities are based on themes and focus on colors, shapes and learning numbers. Themes can also be seasonal, integrating the arts like watercolor painting and mixed media.

“The kids just love arts and crafts,” she said, which is a fun way for the children to learn and express themselves at the same time. “We do a lot of projects where they get to work together,” like the class quilt made of paper hand imprints sewn together with yarn.

When Ms. Stahl isn’t teaching young ones their ABCs and 1-2-3s, she is also a yoga instructor, known to share her art and skills even with small children.

“I’ll do some yoga poses and meditation with them. I’ve done some relaxation exercises and then they’ve asked for it — ‘Ms. Stahl, can we do relaxation now?,’” she smiled.

In addition to learning inside the classroom, the Day School also broadens children’s experiences by scheduling occasional field trips and themed days that have included apple orchard visits, puppet shows, zoo visits, Kirkland Art Center ballet, holiday celebrations, Mother’s Day brunch, Thanksgiving feast and Beach Party Day.

Located in the parish hall wing of the St. James’ Church campus, the non-denominational developmental preschool offers a four-day morning program from 9-11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday.

Enrolled children ages 4-5 can also participate in a “Lunch Bunch” option on certain days, which allows students an extended program with opportunity for further enrichment. The St. James’ Day School has been a part of the community for 55 years and is fully licensed by the state.

For more information, or to enroll a child in any of the programs, call 315-853-5359, ext.14, or email To learn more about St. James’ Day School, visit


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