A Day in the Life: AART Summer Class

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside an AART classroom? I had the pleasure of following along with an AART summer class in Leesburg, where I joined students during a fun-filled day of learning and play. I talked with our dedicated teachers and volunteers about what they do during a typical day of teaching, how their lessons and activities benefit students, and why they teach with AART. It’s in the middle of a busy classroom where the magic of learning creates lasting bonds between teachers and students, and it was amazing to see those relationships being made through fun and easy classroom activities.

The day began with students lining up outside upon arriving at our Leesburg classroom location. They waved goodbye to mom and dad, ready for another day of learning with their friends. Our students then put away their backpacks once they entered the classroom and joined each other on the carpet for Circle time to go over the classroom rules and welcome a couple of new friends to their class. 

They sang a song together to introduce each other and the teachers to the rest of the class and reviewed what they were going to do during class today. Circle time continued with a story- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Our teachers gave each student their own copy of the book, and the class settled in to read the story together, following along with the teacher as they turned the page. The book was read in both English and Spanish so that all of our students could enjoy the story in the language they were most familiar with. Color recognition skills were practiced while reading, as well, since the book focuses heavily on identifying different brightly-colored animals as the story progresses.

To close “Circle” time, each student placed their new books in their backpacks, to take home and read on their own.

Next on the agenda were Centers, where students were divided up between multiple different activities and rotated through each one in turn. Today’s centers helped build shape recognition skills, encouraged creative play, and had students practice writing their names. 

The first Centers activity involved drawing a self-portrait and signing your name on it upon completion. Students were given drawing tools and were encouraged to let their artistic skills and imagination shine. 

The second Centers activity instructed students to mold Play-Doh into different shapes. Students were encouraged to use tools to help them craft their shapes and to identify their shapes upon completion of the activity. 



In the final Centers activity, students were provided worksheets that prompted them to practice drawing certain shapes. Given markers, crayons, and other drawing tools, the students diligently worked at perfecting their triangles, squares, semi-circles, and stars!

After the students finished their Centers activities, the class took a break to have a quick snack. Students lined up to wash their hands and grab their water bottles, then went to find a seat beside their friends. Our students sipped their water, munched on their pretzels, and chatted about the day’s activities during a much-needed moment of rest.

With the end of class insight, our students and teachers regrouped for Closing Circle. The teachers shared our students’ self-portraits that they had drawn earlier, stopping to discuss what each student included in their drawing. We were so impressed with their creativity, and everyone enjoyed getting to share their work with the class!

Lastly, it was time to wrap up another great day of preschool with stickers for a hard day’s work. After receiving their sticker, each student retrieved their backpacks and lined up to leave the classroom. With tired eyes and smiling faces, each student left the classroom to meet an eagerly waiting parent outside. 


Our teachers for our AART summer class in Leesburg, Ms. Shelley and Ms. Giselle, are long-time teachers in the Northern Virginia area. Ms. Shelley has been a preschool teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools for many years, and Ms. Giselle has been a substitute teacher for both primary and secondary level classrooms in Loudoun County Public Schools for around 20 years. They love to teach and are dedicated to the well-being of their students. Teaching at AART has been a great experience for both Ms. Shelley and Ms. Giselle, who are teaching for the first time in our program this summer. They love seeing their students succeed in the classroom and enjoy the fulfillment that comes with a career in education!

Learning with the students in an AART summer class reaffirms the importance of easily accessible preschool programs. Experiencing the joy of learning in a fun, engaging, and age-appropriate environment- with dedicated teachers and diligent volunteers- is a great reminder of the lasting impact of quality early childhood education. AART students will take the lessons, relationships, and memories earned in their preschool class with them throughout their careers as students and into life beyond the classroom. AART thanks its teachers, volunteers, donors, and sponsors for making our summer programs possible!

Interested in learning about our program? Read more here.

What AART is Learning From the Coronavirus

By: Michelle Sullivan, Executive Director

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a humbling experience for our organization. We have had to shift and adapt our program in the span of just a few short weeks – something that is not easy in the best of times.

AART’s educational model focuses on individualized learning – meeting students where they are. We do not use a standard curriculum, but we do have metrics that we measure improvement in key areas. This allows teachers to vary their teaching styles to better address the needs of their students, while still focusing on developing language/literacy, social classroom behavior, cognitive, and fine motor skills.

Student practicing writing at home.
AART student practicing writing at home.

We are very focused on preserving the integrity of our program or “walking in our purpose”, while at the same time adapting to meet our new reality. This is a delicate balance that takes a team effort and I believe we have been extremely successful because of the creativity, support, and dedication of our entire teaching staff working with one purpose in mind – to educate each of our students to the best of their abilities in the home environment.

It has been one month since we suspended our in-person classes and a number of lessons have been learned from this pandemic. Today, I wanted to share with you the biggest lesson we’ve learned thus far: being responsive and agile is key to early success.

Staff creating packets for students.
Staff creating packets for students.

On March 12th, we suspended our classes in accordance with the cancellation of instruction at Loudoun County Public Schools. The very next day, our team was assembling academic activity packets for our students to continue learning at home.

Since that day, our teaching team has been employing technology solutions to connect with their students to continue the learning at home. You can see some of the fantastic examples in this post of what teachers are doing – everything from reading to their students to find creative ways to teach them about the five senses.

The success of our program is built on trust and establishing solid relationships with the children and families early on. Our students connect deeply with their classmates, teaching staff, and volunteers within the first few weeks of class. Because of these personal connections, the students are building their social and emotional skills as well as gaining a sense of independence and familiarity with a structured classroom environment.

Student showing the drawing he completed.
Student showing the drawing he completed.

Since this foundation was well-established with the current 2019-2020 class of students, the shift to a virtual, flexible model was much easier than we assumed. For our team, the agility came in the form of technology challenges with a digital divide experienced by most of our AART families. First, our teachers needed to establish that families had internet and wifi connectivity and second, they needed to confirm the students would have access to a device to access digital material. Once that was established, it was determined that almost all students would be using a borrowed cell phone for any digital connection to the teachers.

Teacher assistant demonstrating the sense of smell.
Teacher assistant demonstrating the sense of smell.

What proved to be successful was how the staff used this knowledge to reach our students. They piloted the use of apps that families could download and use for free, including Marco Polo and WhatsApp, to watch and create videos with their teacher. The teachers also discovered that most students do not have their own learning space equipped with supplies and resources to successfully work from home. This information was power and inspired creativity and thought.

So what does all this mean for our program moving forward? At this time, we are continuing to monitor the situation and have some tough decisions ahead. We intend to complete our current 2019-2020 school year program virtually, which means our students will not have their in-person graduation. As for our in-person summer classes – we must consider our students, staff, and volunteer’s health while at the same time balancing the feasibility of opening classes in our schools or
community centers.

We know we need to take our lessons learned to finetune our program to respond to the anticipated need we expect to see in our 2020-2021 program as a second wave of job loss is currently unfolding in the United States. For now, all of us at AART will #KeepLearning as #COVIDCantStopGood.



Watch Ms. Sally read The Family Book by Todd Parr to her students.