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Celebrating 70 Years of Educating Children with Christian Values

From the August/September Sentinel.  Click to view past Sentinels.  

In 1948, church member Verna “Ruth” Naylor Zimmerman, (aunt to church members Kathy, Craig and Larry Naylor,) saw a need for childcare in the community, especially with the single working families. So, she and 3 other mothers formed a one-room co-op nursery school at what was the First United Methodist Church on 4th St. and Arizona Ave. By the time of the construction of the church where it stands today on 11th St., followed by the consecration of the Education Building in 1955, the First UMC Preschool had established itself as a pioneer preschool in Santa Monica. Now, 70 years later, the school and its community continues to thrive.

The tradition continues on August 27 with over 120 students enrolled this fall with most coming from working families. The non-profit preschool has one of the lower tuition costs in the area, which includes a hot lunch and weekly music education. The singing of grace continues before each snack and lunch times. Chapel Time continues with Tricia Guerrero, Director of Children and Youth Ministries, as she leads the children in songs, stories of God’s love, and age-appropriate prayers. Each month, with the collaboration of church clergy, part of the preschool curriculum focuses on a special value such as Kindness, Respect, Trust, Honesty, and Cooperation. Children also gain knowledge in math and science, cognitive abilities, language and literacy, dramatic play and, most importantly, social skills. Extra-curricular activities include a variety of enrichment classes including music, art and a unique Mandarin Immersion Program. This year we continue to offer the wonderful Seed-to-Seed Gardening Program led by green thumb professor, parent Alum, Nat Zappia, providing integrative education in edible gardening and sustainability.

The annual Direct Giving Campaign, which began in 2013, continues to be a great support to the school and community, allowing for financial assistance to families in need, the ongoing renovation of classrooms (through March Studio, an architectural design firm owned and operated by church members Todd and Sherry Erlandson), and continued education for staff.

Many generations of families have come through the preschool. Teacher Mrs. Kay Morr, now retired but still coming in occasionally to substitute, has taught students who run down the same hallway, and play in the same classrooms as their parents. Ms. Johanna Holman, a pre-K teacher, attended the church and preschool herself! Not to mention the many church members who’ve also attended.

We look forward to celebrating the next 70 years of educating youth and building community!

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