Child's play at Thompson Academy
SUN PHOTO/LOUISE BOLGER
Cindy Thompson and some of her staff and
students prepare for play and learning.
Remember when playing just for the fun of it was a good thing and it was OK to get messy? Remember when kids would go outside, invent games and build their own play things? Remember when overachieving was a term reserved for adults?
Cindy Thompson remembers all of these things, and as a result has incorporated play based creative learning into the structure of her new private preschool.
On June 20, Thompson opened Thompson Academy in one of Bradenton's vintage homes, formerly a Montessori School for 27 years. Thompson is the owner/director of the school with over 13 years of experience in child care, and previously owned another preschool in Bradenton.
Thompson Academy accommodates students between 18 months and 8 years of age. Designed as a resource center for families, the school offers a flexible schedule in an effort to accommodate parents' schedules. Children can attend part time or full time, and schedules can be tailored to the needs of the family.
Fifty-four students attend the school and with a staff of 10, the teacher student ratio is half of what the state of Florida mandates. Smaller class size results in more student attention and hands on interaction. Thompson follows the school board mandated curriculum, but what really sets Thompson Academy apart from other preschools is its play-based curriculum which is centered on play as a way to learn. In fact, Thompson has been working with Dr. Walter Drew, founder and executive director of the Institute for Self Active Education, Inc., developing a pilot program to help bring play to families and childhood educators initially in Manatee County and eventually throughout the state.
Thompson states that although children find comfort in structure and organized activity, giving them the opportunity to learn and work with others through play is the most successful learning tool there is.
The school has a warm intimate feeling with separate play and gathering areas based on the age of the students. There is a kitchen and eating area. The academy provides a healthy breakfast and snack during the day, and room for a daily rest. The outside fenced yard has a covered area, swings, slide, climbing wall and toys, toys, toys.
All staff members, who have been with Thompson between three and five years, have extensive training, some with advanced degrees, and have undergone wide-ranging background screenings approved by the state of Florida. The school is secured with all access doors locked at all times.
Thompson Academy is in the process of obtaining a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation expected within the next year. In addition, Cindy Thompson is on the board of MAEYC, the Manatee County branch of the national organization.
With most of their students coming from west and northwest Bradenton, Thompson Academy has been a huge success since it opened in June. It is currently close to capacity and already has limited enrollment in some age categories.
Since energy is something Thompson has plenty of, she has an extensive resume of volunteer activities. She has been on the board of the Anna Maria Island Chamber for 17 years and is just finishing up as chairman of the board. She has also organized the Bayfest festival on Anna Maria for 11 years and continues to be active in other civic endeavors in the city of Homes Beach.
So forget the Baby Einstein, get your little ones to grow up to be real Einsteins, and a good place to start is with Thompson Academy and its creative based learning programs. It's fun to be a kid, especially for the kids.
1212 43rd St. W., Bradenton
Monday through Friday
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday by appointment
Visa, MasterCard, Discover