Little ones set the Bethlehem scene

MAHOMET — Emotions were running high last Thursday before Small Wonders Preschool's nativity performance.

"My mom is coming to see me!" said Colby Tobias, who played a shepherd.

More than a dozen 3- to 5-year-olds nervously put on their costumes to set the Bethlehem scene in front of their parents and a senior group, Older Adults Still in Service, at Mahomet Christian Church.

"I'm a cow," Josephine Segreto said.

Lizzy Grgurich, who played a sheep, said she liked her costume's "white fuzzy outfit."

"And I like the ears!" she added.

Her favorite Christmas song?

"Silent Night," Grgurich said.

Marlee Mott couldn't wait to get on stage and sing "Joy to the World" because she enjoys "making the motions to the songs."

Despite the nerves, the true meaning of their monthlong rehearsals wasn't lost on the preschoolers.

"It's about Jesus," said Charlotte Cortez, who played an angel. "It's his birthday and I'm excited."

Learning about "baby Jesus" was Lidia Belanger's favorite part.

Well, that and the "angel is bright" and "Mary gets scared," said Belanger, who played a cow.

But as anxious as the preschoolers were, even more anxious were their parents awaiting their arrival.

"It's a proud moment for me and her grandparents to be able to see her perform and to take ownership and to be able to memorize her lines and understand the entire story and the entire little skit they're going to be able to do today," said Kristina Oncken-Cortez, Charlotte Cortez's mother.

Each night leading up to the performance, Oncken-Cortez said her daughter would make sure to put in extra preparations.

"She's diligent about making sure she's ready to perform today," she said.

"She sings all of the songs over and over and over again."

Oncken-Cortez appreciated just how much the opportunity has provided her daughter.

"She just really enjoys being able to hang out with her friends and being able to put on a play about Jesus and the great things that he does," Oncken-Cortez said.

"It's teaching her about Christmas and about Christ's birthday and what that means to her at 5 years old."

Katty Sievers, mother of Callahan Sievers, who played a sheep, admitted she didn't know quite what to expect from her 3-year-old's performance.

"He told us he's a sheep," she said. "That's about it."

"We ask him what he says, and he says, 'Bah!'" Katty Sievers said while laughing.

"At 3 years old, it's hard to get things out of him about school," she added.

"Like he'll come home with a sheet that has the letter G on it and I'll say, 'Oh, you learned this letter. What letter is this?' And he'll say, 'B!'" Sievers said with a smile. "Not quite but it's a good start. It's funny."

Callahan Sievers wasn't just tight-lipped about his part in the play, mom Katty Sievers said her son didn't even say much about the songs he worked on leading up to the performance.

"He hasn't specifically said it but when we're listening to Christmas music at home, he knows the words to a lot of songs," she added. "So I'll be interested in hearing what they're singing for the play because there are a few songs that he really seems to know the lyrics to."

Callahan Sievers kept his thumb in his mouth for much of the performance's first song, but despite his shyness, mom Katty Sievers knows just how much preschool continues to mold her son.

"First of all, just the social aspect of being around other kids and learning how to share and then just kind of learning social norms about listening to the teacher," she said.

"Three years old is young, but it's a good start to learning just what school's about and getting their feet wet," she added.

Ann Huff, preschool director, was elated to work with the preschoolers and teach them all about "how we celebrate Christmas and the history of Jesus and Mary and Joseph and what the story was over 2,000 years ago."Huff enjoyed watching just how quickly the children picked up on their lines and the songs, "but when you put them in front of an audience they don't quite perform," she joked.

With the assistance of music teacher Joyce Roberts, the two helped the children learn songs like "Joy to the World" and singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.

"I love watching the children who have learned their parts perform," Huff added. "We have three wonderful angels played by Victoria Bruns, Charlotte Cortez and Corban Bothwell."

But perhaps her favorite part was found in those small moments leading up to the big performance.

"What's really neat is when they're at free play and all at once three of them will just start singing one of the songs, like 'Joy to the World,' on their own," Huff said. "It's just neat. They're taking it in and learning."

Such moments make it all the sweeter for Huff, who focuses on building a strong foundation for the youngsters.

"It just gives them a stable Christian foundation before they hit public schools," she said. "That's why we're here. That is totally why we're here is to give them a Christian foundation."

Categories (3):News, Education, Religion

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