Nestled in the hallways of the Irons building of the Allied Health Complex is a world where children learn and create, sing and play. This place is the REAP program, a preschool that assists children with development delays. I have immensely enjoyed my work with this special program.
One can be overwhelmed when first walking into REAP. One long room serves as the class, eating, play, and craft space. Trying to make sure twelve young children between the ages of three and five don’t get into the wrong thing can be a challenge. Someone will inevitably find the toys no matter what the present task. Yet one learns quickly that the seeming chaos actually falls into a very precise order. Activities are developed to stimulate the child in all areas of development, from fine motor skills to reading to social skills. Every part of the day emphasizes the lesson, whether it be the book read during circle time or the games played in the sand box.
While working with REAP, I had the opportunity to teach a lesson to the children on nutrition. Having observed the program for a few weeks, I could then appreciate the full amount of preparation the teachers put into their work. Trying to figure out how to capture the attention of all the kids proved a real challenge, as well as coming up with appropriate activities for them. Despite all the hard work involved, I loved every minute of that day. As I read the story, I could see their eyes grow wide with each turn of the page and the gleam of smiles that followed. Those small tokens of praise made everything worthwhile.
I plan to continue working with REAP until the end of semester, even though I long since finished my service hours. The great problem with working in that environment is you begin to feel attached to it, as if you belong there. I can’t imagine a better way I could have spent my Tuesdays and Thursdays than by working with the many wonderful children at REAP.