Eagan preschool connects generations.
When avid birdwatchers Marie and Jerry Soczynski, two residents of Lexington Pointe Senior Living, decided to hang up bird houses near their windows, they realized it might provide a great learning opportunity for their neighbors. The pair lives “a couple of windows over” from All Seasons Preschool in Eagan, and they wanted to make sure their young neighbors both respected and appreciated the residents of the new birdhouses.
“We explained the different birds that are in our area to them and showed them pictures,” Marie says. “And now when they come out—because they do play right where we have the birdhouses—they talk about the birds.”
The kids save their “bird questions” for Jerry and Marie, and last spring, a small group joined the Soczynskis with their birdwatching club on an outdoor patio, overlooking a pond at Lexington Pointe, learning to identify birds by their calls and paging through bird books together. Jerry says that teaching the children about birds has inspired him to learn more, so he can answer their questions.
Celebrating learning and growth in every stage of life—as well as Minnesota’s four seasons—is at the heart of All Seasons Preschool in Eagan. The preschool with a nature-based, arts-centered curriculum was purposefully located in a senior housing community to allow seniors and preschoolers the benefits of daily interactions. “It’s so rewarding to see the faces of the seniors light up when they see the children,” says Joanne Esser, the director and art teacher at All Season Preschool. “They’re so generous with their patience and their time.”
Whether they’re participating in formal programs—like sing-a-longs—or the kids are bringing up extra homemade banana bread they made for snack to share with the residents of the senior living community (who they refer to as the grandmas and the grandpas), it’s clear that everyone benefits from the time they spend together.
The Eagan preschool is the second location of a school that was founded about 14 years ago in Inver Grove Heights. The Eagan location was designed and built along with a new senior living community and opened its doors mid-pandemic in September 2020. Yet, the school has been growing steadily, and as pandemic restrictions have lifted, the preschoolers and seniors have had more opportunities to interact.
The preschool, which is in the lower level of the senior living building, has a toddler classroom and two preschool classrooms, along with a dedicated art room and indoor large movement play space, as well as a large outdoor nature play yard, complete with a garden, playground and a water feature that replicates a creek and can be turned on or off depending on the day. There’s also a pond and woods nearby, which the school uses for hiking, playing and exploring. “We’re really responsive to ideas that children generate and what they notice outdoors, what they find interesting,” says Esser, who taught elementary school for several decades before earning her master’s degree in early education and teaching preschool. “As the seasons change, we respond to that.”
Last spring, the class tapped boxelder trees to gather sap and make syrup. Once the syrup was made, they helped plan a pancake breakfast for the “grandmas and grandpas.”
“This is our future, and I think it’s so enlightening to see how much they know and how inquisitive they are,” Marie says. “It’s so convenient here, too, because it’s right here in the building.”
All Seasons Preschool of Eagan
3385 Discovery Road, Eagan; 952.466.1471