Castle Kids Play School makes learning fun for children and high-schoolers

Shawn Hardy
Mallory Sheppard spearheaded the art project Tuesday at Castle Kids Play School when the youngsters made shamrocks using their thumbs and green paint. For video, visit

Three times a week, some very young students walk through the doors of Greencastle-Antrim High School. They are headed to Castle Kids Play School run by Jennifer Ditchcreek’s Child Development 2 students.

A long-standing practice at the high school, the play school gives the high-schoolers practical experience in the care and guidance of young children and it gives the young children a boost before they start school.

Castle Kids Play School for children 3 to 5 is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon from February through mid-May.

This Tuesday the focus was on St. Patrick’s Day, with “green” activities delayed from March 17 by last week’s snow storm.

Ditchcreek’s students are divided into four teams for each session: one team plans and oversees activities, one team observes and two teams are the helpers. The daily lineup includes story time, an art project, a gross motor skills activity and free play, all designed to help children develop socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively.

Paige Avey took attendance on Tuesday. She really likes interacting with children, plans to become a teacher and is trying to figure out what age group she wants to teach. She goes to the same church as Hadley Francis, a Castle Kid who is a little shy, so the two are special friends and enjoyed the game Memory during free play.

Jake Angliss likes working with kids and their different personalities and may become an elementary or gym teacher.

Ethan VanScyoc likes playing with the kids, and has observed “they really don’t talk to each other that much, they keep to themselves. I have to engage them in conversation unless they want something.”

The helpers were in full demand when it was time for the art project planned by Mallory Sheppard. They helped the kids get into their smocks then use their thumbs and green paint to make shamrocks.

Karlee Hendricks wants to be a trauma nurse. She enjoys interacting with the kids and said, “It’s a good experience even for being a parent when you’re older.”

She read the book “St. Patrick’s Day” by Gail Gibbons and asked the children questions about St. Patrick’s Day. Dawson Shifflett brought in a small piece of paper he found with a green leprechaun track on it. That led to a discussion about of what leprechauns eat — Lucky Charms, of course — and who in the group only eats the marshmallows from the cereal.

Dawson is 4 and goes to Castle Kids all three days of the week. Mom Cristy Shifflett said he loves it and it is good practice for kindergarten and “being away from Mama and his siblings” — Degan, almost 3, and Carlee, 5 months.

Katy Kreutzwiser, who announced Tuesday while attendance was being taken that she has changed her name to Angel, also goes to the play school three days a week. Her mother, Jamie, said Katy really enjoys it and it is helping her get ready to start school.

Four-year-old Joaquin Torres attends twice a week and also really likes it, according to his mother, Arelis, who said it is a fun environment for learning.

Castle Kids Play School is free and open to children in the community.

“We’re flexible. The more friends we have, the better,” said Ditchcreek, who added, “I think my students have as much fun as the kids do.”

For more information or an application, contact Ditchcreek at 717-597-3226, Ext. 10198, or Applications also are available in the high school office.