Parents and their children will have greater options for participating in the Laramie Early Learning Cooperative in the upcoming school year.

After a significant response from the community in the cooperative's first year, the program is now expanding from two days a week to four days a week with help from a recently acquired grant.

The Powerful Interactions infant and toddler program for children 12 months to three years old will be held from 8 a.m. -11 a.m. Monday through Thursday each week, followed by the Profound Discoveries preschool program for three- to five-year-olds held from 12:30 p.m. -3 p.m. The Parent Cooperative Activities will be held Friday mornings.

Both programs will be held in the Laramie Community Recreation Center's Child Care Room. They each begin Tuesday, September 6 and will follow the Albany County School District No. 1 calendar for holidays and breaks.

The program is free for anyone eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Children. There is also no charge if a parent or guardian attends with the child. Otherwise, each day costs $10.50.

The Laramie Early Learning Cooperative originally ran just two days a week in both the morning and afternoon.

Basic Beginnings Director Jan Lawrence expects the program to fill up quickly. Folks can sign up for two days a week to start, in order to accommodate as many people as possible. Additional signups will be permitted if space allows.

The morning program with have spots for eight children with two spots left open for drop-ins from the Laramie Recreation Center. Afternoon sessions will have 12 spots available.

"Each one of these sessions, both the morning and the afternoon, are driven by teachers with early childhood degrees and teaching certifications from the state of Wyoming," Lawrence says.

Natasha Snelson, assistant to the director, says the Powerful Interactions program will focus on interactions through play with people and objects, designed to meet Wyoming Early Learning Guidelines.

Snelson adds that the Profound Discoveries program will revolve around discovery-based learning and will incorporate a significant pre-kindergarten focus.

"These kids will have a lot of ownership in what they are finding out," says Snelson. "We have teachers that are very masterful at facilitating these discoveries, so they're not just totally by chance -- they are very tailored, but it's really neat how the kids take ownership of the things they're learning."

The program is the result of a public-private partnership including the City of Laramie, the Ellbogen Foundation, the Wyoming Early Childhood Partnership, Basic Beginnings, the Albany County School District, the Albany County Recreation Board, the Wyoming Department of Family Services and the Wyoming Department of Education.

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