Central Unified opens observational classroom

FRESNO, Calif.

A one-way mirror reflects a new teaching method at Central Unified School District.

"I love it. I've actually been in the other room while they've done the observation and you could just learn a lot from that," said parent Teresa Hart.

It's called the observational classroom, where mirrors give parents and teachers an eye inside a first-of-its-kind preschool at district headquarters.

"We believe that parents are their child's first teacher, and so having the observation windows provides an opportunity for parents to come in and learn first-hand and to see without disrupting the learning environment, how the teachers are working with their students, how their engaging, how their playing," said First 5 Executive Director Kendra Rogers.

Using an educational philosophy called the Reggio Emilia Approach, teachers work one-on-one with students to develop their language skills and encourage them to learn by interacting with those around them.

"Really pays attention to what the children are thinking, what they're saying, it's great for language development," said Rogers.

The concept was born two years ago and came to fruition this year with the help of a $500,000 grant from First 5 Fresno County.

Central Unified Superintendent Mike Berg says in addition to parents, it also gives teachers an opportunity to observe the latest teaching methodology, and is part of the district's wider plan to improve instruction as well as student learning.

"In early childhood ed today, it's all about literacy, it's all about speaking, and reading, and writing even in preschool," said Berg. "So we need to give parents some tricks of the trade, if you will, on how to engage their children at home so they're even more prepared when they get to us."

Giving parents an opportunity to see what their kids see -- magnifying their educational experience. Right now, a total of 40 preschoolers use the observational classroom for a morning and afternoon session. The district says it plans to build more just like it at three new campuses slated for construction in the next five years.

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