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by Linda Sheridan


What does 7-year-old Gabriela Christina Gagliano from Kew Gardens have in common with the likes of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs? Perhaps more than you think. Already, Gagliano, an aspiring “teacher, veterinarian, or star,” has overcome any fears she had about public speaking, and did a stint on the Rene Lobo show on Queens Public Access Television. She has learned the basics of economics, astronomy, earth science and technology, all thanks to her participation in FasTracKids, an early learning program for children ages 3–6.

    “It definitely had an impact. It’s taken away her fear of speaking in public; she landed a role in her school Christmas play,” says father Mel Gagliano.  “But it has also helped her with critical analysis. She studies things, observes how things work, how there is a beginning, a middle and an end.” Currently in first grade, Gabriela is enjoying “learning about teeth, how we keep them healthy.”

   Now franchised in 37 countries and in 16 locations throughout the metropolitan area alone, FasTracKids, established in 1998, is the brainchild of Dr. Johann DeBeer, an early childhood expert. DeBeer researched how Fortune 500 corporations train their executive management teams and then adapted their ideas to create a unique teaching strategy for the preschool set.

   The educational system still prepares students for the industrial age, not the informational age, explains Dave Nagar, area developer for FasTracKids in Queens.  Children “need to communicate, invent, adapt and change on a constant basis,” says Nagar, noting that the years from age 3–7 are when children are most malleable. “Here children are not learning by memory, but through experiments, hands-on projects, socialization.”

   In FasTracKids’ two-year Graduate Success program, a group of approximately 15 children ages 3–6 attend class once a week for a two-hour session. Like a typical school curriculum, the teacher’s lessons (curriculum is the same at all locations) are broken down into seven-week sessions focusing on numerous academic categories, including biology, earth sciences, astronomy, mathematics and literature. Often neglected areas, such as money management, public speaking, and running a business, are also covered in lessons on economics, communication, goals and life lessons. The children receive badges as they complete each subject.

   “Socialization, cooperation, confidence, a good vocabulary, the ability to collaborate, and to have to speak in complete sentences,” are all essentials for one to flourish in both personal and professional life, Nagar stresses.

   An important part of the curriculum is the use of a ‘smart board’ that is projected onto a large screen. Students take turns and come up to do, for example, a weather forecast. The presentation is videotaped and played back so they can learn from their mistakes.

   As this reporter sat in on one session introducing the subject of technology, kids worked the ‘smart board’ on learning the basics of electricity, how and what electric household items have made our lives easier, and how electrons travel. They did an experiment with a light bulb.

   Bibi Ahmad, a stay-at-home mom in South Ozone Park, read about the program when her daughter, Maryam, was only 3 years old. Maryam will be graduating from the two-year program this year. “I’m very impressed with the way she listens,” her mother says. “She has good comprehension and enjoys talking about the program when she comes home.”

   Outside the classroom on a 42” plasma screen, parents can watch non-intrusively how their child is doing in class. Parents are also given access to FasTracKids’ website, where they can do activities at home with their child to complement what they are learning in the classroom.

   This summer, FasTracKids will be offering a camp program focusing on Young Scientists, Old Bones; Anatomy of Me; Ready, Set, Travel; and Constellation Destination. Friday will be reserved for a more laid back, “fun” agenda.

   FasTracKids will also be hosting a special event at the Big Apple Circus in Cunningham Park on Saturday, May 19, where families can learn more about programs and win a free month.

   For more information, call (877) 867-5437 or visit www.fastrackids.com.

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