SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — 30 years after Washington High School closed in downtown Sioux Falls, the building remains a place of learning.
The Washington Pavilion offers hundreds of interactive exhibits, artworks and live performances…but it’s also a school.
This stretch of Washington Pavilion hallway is lined with championship trophies and memorabilia, a reminder that the building began as Washington High School.
The hallway is currently home to Graham Academy Preschool.
“We have been here since 2009, our inaugural year. We’ve grown since then, but we like to think we’re a little-known gem,” said Maddy Grogan, director of education at Graham Academy Preschool.
Maddy Grogan is the Director of Education. She says the preschool was created to meet a need in the community, by providing a different kind of education.
“We have a unique experience here with our Visual Arts Center, our Kirby Science Discovery Center and our Performing Arts Center. We can offer something that we don’t think anyone else in town can offer,” Grogan said.
Field trips for these 3, 4 and 5 year olds often mean they don’t leave the Pavilion.
“When we have a ballet, we have ballerinas who come to do activities with the kids or a student matinee and they can go and meet the actors and actresses, so they definitely have opportunities that most preschoolers don’t. haven’t,” Grogan said. .
“The bonus of being at the Pavilion is that we can go to the Science Center or the art galleries and really explore that and it’s like the kids’ little playground,” said preschool teacher Ashlyn Christianson.
Ashlyn Christianson has taught at Graham Academy for three years. She has assistants, but class sizes are intentionally small.
“We think the appeal here is that it’s a small program. We cap our classes at 15 so you get that intimate connection with your students,” Grogan said.
“The small group is important. It helps us talk to the child as an individual and not as a class,” Christianson said.
The curriculum includes everything from math to foreign languages, and is constantly evolving.
“Our strengths right now are art and science. Our students go to shows, they go to all the activities, special events that we have in the building and so we don’t just have them show up and perform, they experience when they’re here,” Grogan said.
“We have a science teacher who comes in once a month and she does science projects with them,” Christianson said.
This learning continues outside the classroom.
“We have a play-based curriculum, so we want kids to explore and play and obviously we’re wonderfully prepared for that,” Grogan said.
“Doing so many fun things,” said 5-year-old student Lois Hall.
Five-year-old Lois Hall enjoys making crafts and visiting the Discovery Center.
Jdelighted with Fossing: What do you prefer there?
Lois Hall: The climber.
The Climber teaches students about health and nutrition, movement and physical strength through dinosaurs.
“The slides and the place where you can crawl and there’s like this secret place behind it,” Hall added.
Lois is one of approximately 50 students currently attending Graham Academy.
“Our enrollment starts every January, February for the next school year, so about six months,” Grogan said. We have classes on a waiting list, so it’s one of those things you have to get started on pretty quickly,” Grogan added.
The preschool also partners with the Sioux Falls Hope Coalition to provide scholarships.
“This year we’re doing about $20,000 in scholarships for students who might not have the opportunity to go to preschool otherwise,” Grogan said.
Registration has its perks, including a membership for five at the Washington Pavilion.
“Our intention is to make them feel comfortable with the place, to make them feel like it’s their home away from home and so our families come regularly and the students just feel like it’s really their safe place,” Grogan said. .
Graham Preschool Academy has a few openings for the fall.