FORT MILL --
It’s likely that 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds will spend more time in the 21st century than the rest of us, so Bill Strickland figures they may as well be prepared.
Bill and wife Amy own The Goddard School on Gold Hill Road, which recently adopted a Partnership for 21st Century Skills curriculum that emphasizes technology use, critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. It’s the first preschool of its kind in the state to adopt the standards.
The second will be a Goddard School the Stricklands plan to open in Rock Hill early next year.
“Basically it talks about implementing life skills into education,” said Lindsey Arnautovic, education director at the Fort Mill site.
Students at the school are using smartboards, Kindle Fires and computer searches, team activities and other strategies geared at preparing them to be competitive in a global market. The junior kindergarten class uses state kindergarten standards, and 95 percent of students test out ready for kindergarten. And 75 percent test ready for first grade when they enter kindergarten.
“If you make learning fun, the child embraces it and learning becomes lifelong,” Bill Strickland said.
South Carolina is one of 17 states committed to the new system, called P21. The Fort Mill School District is implementing it, too. Susan Costley, who’ll be the education director at the new Rock Hill location, said the benefit of the new program is that it gets students thinking creatively and critically.
“There’s not just one answer to most questions in the real world,” she said.
There are challenges. Not all preschools would have the capability to fully implement the program. Strickland recruits from college education programs just like schools, and 90 percent of his instructors have four-year degrees.
“We’re recruiting teachers,” he said. “We’re not recruiting daycare workers. We’re not recruiting babysitters.”
Costley also admits that students are being asked to master more material at younger ages than they were in years or generations past. But, she said, they’re also more prepared to take in lessons like those of technology.
“They use mom and dad’s phone, mom and dad’s iPad,” she said. “They’re completely free of inhibition.”
Goddard has 140 children in the school age six weeks to 5 years, 44 children that graduate each year into, mainly, the Fort Mill School District.