Knoxville (WVLT) -- When you think of children starting school, you most likely think of four or five year olds.
But a new program sends some Knox County three year olds to school every day.
Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford has the details.
Knox County schools teamed up with ut's early learning center for a pre-pre-k program for three year olds from low-income families.
It's the first of its kind in East Tennessee, preparing little ones for that big step into kindergarten.
Katie Bargreen, a teacher and UT doctoral student says, "We're helping the children construct knowledge through their activities that they typically do."
Measuring, reading, writing and painting.
"I'm painting a butterfly."
These three year olds started school here at South Doyle High in November.
Nine to noon, five days a week.
Bargreen says, "The children have come so far in just developing friendships with each other and their social interactions."
Besides getting along well with others, the youngsters are working on literacy, math and science skills.
Bargreen says, "We use our environment to prepare materials for them to help them be able to explore and through play, construct their new knowledge."
But just how young is too young? Could taking in these new concepts be too much for three year olds to handle?
UT Clinical Assistant Professor and Director Sean Durham says, "Children are born ready to learn and so we don't feel like it's ever too early to provide them with quality experiences in an educational setting."
Carrie Kirby's daughter is enrolled in the program and says, "She is ready for that kind of interaction with other kids her age and other people besides me at home."
Haley's mother says she's amazed at the progress her daughter has made just four months into the program.
Kirby says, "Her behavior has been so much better." 39:09 "She loves it. When she gets up in the morning, she's ready to come to school."
Tara Neely's son is enrolled and says, "He's grown up a lot. A lot more independent and he's actually been potty-trained since he's been here."
Basic building blocks that will carry them through school for years to come.
Bargreen says, "I think that by being here, they're going to go into pre-kindergarten next year knowing how to work together, knowing how to get along with other friends."
Right now there are nine students in the program and three spots open.
If you'd like to enroll your three year old, or if you have a little one that will be ready next year, call the UT Early Learning Center at (865) 974-0843.
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