An Inclusive Preschool Comes to Marin

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Great Expectations, an inclusive preschool born from collaboration with the Dominican University Department of Early Childhood Education, Lifehouse, and the Marin County Office of Education, is opening this Fall in San Rafael. The first collaboration of its kind in the county, it will finally bring the “inclusion” model, increasingly seen to be best practices in early childhood education, to our county.

The inclusion model allows typically developing children and children with developmental disabilities the opportunity to share a classroom together, where all students can enjoy the benefits of increased supports and a more diverse learning environment. For students with developmental disabilities the benefits of inclusion are well known, but a growing body of evidence has shown this model also to have salutary effects on children without disabilities. “Inclusive education has shown to benefit typically developing children as well, “ says Dr. Jacquelyn Urbani, Department Chair of Early Education at Dominican University. “In particular, students further develop empathy and leadership skills and demonstrate higher levels of acceptance towards various kinds of diversity.”

Mary Jane Burke, Marin Superintendent of Schools, “is thrilled about this opportunity to offer a positive, enriching preschool experience for children with and without disabilities. It is our hope that this will develop into a best practices model and potentially become available to all children. Children with and without disabilities will benefit from even greater opportunities for teacher collaboration, social skill development and diversity within the classroom setting.”

The Great Expectation classroom with have certified Special Education and General Education teachers as well as paraprofessionals to promote a rich and interactive learning environment. Utilizing the Creative Curriculum, an explorative learning model, and the California Preschool Learning Framework, learning objectives will be pursued creatively in an environment of respect, acceptance and cooperation.

Lifehouse, a San Rafael-based non-profit serving the needs of people with developmental disabilities, itself began as a preschool for children with special needs in 1954. CEO Nancy Dow Moody, noticing a conspicuous lack of inclusive preschools in Marin (which are prevalent elsewhere in the Bay Area) reached out to the Marin County Office of Education and Dominican University to see about addressing this. “We managed to get the right people in the room to make this happen. All of our partners have been so enthusiastic and supportive of this idea. Everyone agrees this model benefits all the children involved. Inclusion is long overdue for our county.”

Parents of typically developing children who are interested in enrolling at Great Expectations should contact Lifehouse at (415) 526-5307 or greatexpectations@lifehouseagency.org. For children with special needs, contact your local school district.