Janet Collins teaches kindergarteners (R-L) Vittoria Valentini, Ben Bothwell, Mia Tamburo, Emma Seapan and Jude Sosa how to say the Pledge of Allegiance in spanish at Magic Journey Learning Center in the Foothills on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Preschool and kindergarten is a time when children begin getting into the rhythm of school and witness firsthand what the education world is all about.

The Magical Journey Learning Center, 1442 E. Chandler Blvd., thinks children need the most attention when it comes to molding them educationally, which is why the institute offers a small classroom setting for eager preschoolers and kindergartners.

The center is fairly new to the education scene in Ahwatukee, currently in its second year and housing 30 students.

The genesis for the center began when Julie Fischer and Michelle Willis, co-owners of the center, began brainstorming the idea of teaching students in a smaller classroom setting.

Willis, who received her master’s degree in education at Arizona State University, said the center focal points are trying to keep students engaged throughout the day, and creating a community atmosphere within the center.

“We just wanted to create an environment that we felt would be really optimal for learning for children at a younger age,” Willis said. “We believe in small group learning, instead of one teacher with 24 students.”

The environment of having children broken up into small groups — six students to a group — allows Willis and Fischer to be more attentive to their students and allows the students to absorb all the material.

“We just had a vision of school that would be magical and when the kids came in it would be so much fun for them when they are here,” Willis said. “Kindergarten is such an important year… it lays the foundation, so we wanted them to have that strong ability to be ahead when they go into the public schools.”

Parents also get involved with the center by volunteering with daily routines throughout the day, giving exceedingly amount of attention to the children.

Willis said many of the parents who visit the center are surprised about how the children seem to stay completely focused on the material.

During the beginning of the day, students are broken up into groups where they are taught different subject material ranging from arts and crafts to mathematics and language arts to animals.

The students also complete different writing workshops where they learn how to complete personal narratives, Willis added.

Fischer, who taught kindergarten in the Kyrene School District in 2006, said the school offers a two-year program where kids get to familiarize themselves with school in a smaller setting.

“We are very developmental and believe in hands-on learning. We are really able to facilitate that because the kids are in small groups,” Fischer said. “By the time they leave here they are fluent in reading, writing, adding and subtracting when they head into first grade.”

For more information about the Magical Journey Learning Center, visit www.magicaljourneylc.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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