Celebrating St. Pete at the Lew Williams Center

BY KEIRSTEN JOHNSON Contributor

ST. PETERSBURG — The Lew Williams Center for Early Learning took years to come to fruition. Since Williams passed away unexpectedly in 2011, the district vowed to pay tribute to his 40-year career in education, both as an instructor and a Pinellas County School Board member.

With the goal of providing quality education, each child is offered the opportunity to enter kindergarten ready with the foundation needed for long-term school success. This is achieved by giving high quality education and ongoing assessments.

Parents receive regular progress reports as well as access to numerous community resources. Each family has the opportunity to volunteer and participate in center activities, which forms a connection between school and home. For example, the school’s latest project used child led centers to help create a context within their community.

One of the school’s educators brought the idea to Program Director, Dr. Susan Weber that the children should be able to relate to everyday places and events in their community. That is when the idea for the event called “St. Petersburg, My Hometown” was born.

“There is a rich history here that a lot of people don’t know about. Even the teachers were learning information about their own city,” said Weber. “Sometimes we’re learning about things that are outside of our grasp, we should be learning about our own backyard first.”

For the last four months, each teacher has been preparing for the extravaganza by integrating classroom curriculum with historical St. Petersburg landmarks and people, and on Fri., June 12 parents were invited in to see their kid’s projects.

The one-year-old classes learned about the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel and prominent historical figures from the 22nd Street District. The two year olds explored the St. Petersburg Museum of History and replicated their exhibits and created some of their own.

The three-year-old classrooms were taught about Tropicana Field’s recognizable architecture and as being the home to Tampa Bay’s first major league baseball team, The Rays.

Last but not least, the four-year-old classes learned about the newspaper industry by studying The Weekly Challenger, Pinellas County’s oldest African-American newspaper. The children interviewed staff members, took pictures and identified parts of a newspaper.

The little ones walked around with clipboards and pencils in hand writing down the answers to their questions. This not only enhanced their writing abilities, but also ignited their critical thinking skills by having to come up with their own questions.

The children learned about photography and how it’s used in journalism. This helped form their minds into understanding how pictures can capture history.

They were shown how to identify the fundamentals of a newspaper, such as the table of contents, headings (titles) and advertisements. The Fantastic Fours, as they are called, thoroughly enjoyed being little journalists.

The “St. Petersburg, My Hometown” project helped the students of the Lew Williams Center learn more about the town they are growing up in.

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