Since 1991, Valley Pre-School has been using the power of imagination to transport its 4s classes on a magical beach vacation for one day each March. The annual “VPS Florida Trip”, now in its 27th year, is one of the school’s most beloved traditions and the source of many happy memories for VPS alums.
A true labor of love, parents and teachers spend hours clearing out the classroom and preparing the space. Like a stage production, sets are carried in and assembled. A boardwalk is placed, a cardboard airplane and a tiki hut are built, palm trees are brought in, sandboxes and wading pools full of sea creatures are set up. Even the windows are covered with fabric to ensure the magic isn’t spoiled by a view of the school’s yard.
On the big day, children begin at the VPS airport terminal, where they check their luggage and pick up boarding passes. After saying goodbye to Mom or Dad, they board the plane and find their seats. Magazines are passed out and soon the co-pilots (teachers) board and are seated in front of the large control panel at the front of the plane. Announcements about seat belts and cruising altitudes are made, and soon, everyone is ready to go. The air traffic controller (parent helper), stationed outside the window, uses a walkie talkie to lead the plane to the runway. Amid much excitement, VPS Flight # 2018 takes off.
During the flight, children follow the plane’s course on a map and peer out their windows to see tiny houses and cars. After enjoying an in-flight “movie” (giant book being read aloud) and several harrowing “loop de loops,” they land safely in Key West.
Down the hallway their happy feet patter, and into sunny Florida they go. After changing into summer clothing, teachers and children spread out towels and enjoy fruit they’ve purchased from the tiki hut using plastic coins. For two magical hours, disbelief is suspended and imagination takes over. Children build sand castles, fish with poles and nets, spy sea gulls with binoculars, learn to limbo, play tennis, create a sand casting memento, write post cards to send home, and more. The sound of ocean waves in the background and warm temperature in the room add to the effect.
After a fancy tropical drink complete with umbrella, everyone reluctantly packs up their suitcase and boards the return flight home. After a bumpy landing, children arrive safely back in Granby where they greet their parents.
From the outside, the whirlwind trip might look like only imaginative play, but a lot of learning is happening. Children are discovering biology, geography, ecosystems and the necessary disciplines of air travel. They’re practicing writing and learning how to compose a letter. They’re counting coins to learn about money and working on fine and gross motor skills. And, as always at Valley Pre-School, they’re learning to love learning.
Who thought a day at the beach could teach all of that?
Valley Pre-School is currently accepting applications for its 3s and 4s programs for the 2018–2019 school year. Please visit valleypreschoolinfo.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 860-653-3641 for more information or to schedule a tour.