the first day of kindergarten can be an adventure for students, their parents and teachers.
From a new environment, to new people and activities, it’s fun but scary, too.
For the 26 students who completed Child Care Network’s Jump Start Kindergarten program this summer in Seymour, the first day of school won’t be quite as intimidating.
Conducted at Emerson Elementary School, students met daily for two weeks from July 20 to 31. The purpose of the program was simply to help kids develop school routines and transition from summertime habits.
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It’s a way for students to be more prepared for kindergarten, said Janice Read, executive director of Child Care Network.
“It’s hard to go from summer play to an all-day structured classroom setting,” she said. “It’s a big change; and for a 5-year-old, it can be overwhelming.”
Any child entering kindergarten this fall was eligible to be in Jump Start Kindergarten, although the program is most beneficial to those children who never attended preschool.
It’s free to families, and children are identified for the service by school officials during kindergarten registrations.
A Jump Start program also is offered at Brownstown.
The program has been conducted in Crothersville and Medora in the past, Read said, “but since they have implemented preschool programs there, it’s not needed as much now.”
In Jump Start Kindergarten, students arrived at school by 8:30 a.m. Then for 3½ hours, they learned how to write the letters of the alphabet, identify colors and cut with scissors, among other skills. They experienced restroom breaks, story time, going out to recess and eating a snack together.
Although three hours doesn’t sound like a lot of time, teachers say it’s enough to give kids an idea of what going to school is like, that way they won’t be as nervous on their first day.
Seymour Community School Corp. starts the new school year Monday.
Lanie Booher, 5, said being in Jump Start Kindergarten was fun and was preparing her for her big day.
“We’ve played outside and colored and matched shapes,” she said. “And we went to the computer lab.”
She enjoyed all the things she was learning but said going outside to play was her favorite part of the day.
Lanie also said she liked getting to make Minions in her class.
“We’ve done a lot,” she said.
Kindergarten teacher Tracey Ferguson-Brown, who teaches at Emerson, said this is the second year of the three-year Jump Start Kindergarten program in Seymour.
“We would love to get more kids involved next summer,” she said. “We had room for about 50.”
Each class had two teachers and two classroom instructional assistants. The program is funded through Child Care Network, a Jackson County United Way agency. The funding comes through matching grant dollars accessed by JCUW through the Indiana Association of United Ways.
“That’s why new donations to the United Way are so important, because that’s what allows us to do things like this,” Read said.
Ferguson-Brown said the program is a “great way to get kids used to school” before they actually go to school.
“We work on things like social skills, how to get along with each other, how to behave, how to listen and use our inside voices, how to follow instructions,” she said.
Along with those skills, the students work on improving their fine motor skills and beginning academic lessons in reading, writing and math.
The progress they make in just two weeks is evident, Ferguson-Brown added.
“It’s amazing to see how much they grow in that amount of time,” she said. “Just to be able to work in small groups or focus on a teacher-led activity, and they are more aware of their own space when others kids are around them.”
Read said often those students who attend Jump Start Kindergarten become the “stars” of their kindergarten class.
“Children are little sponges,” she said. “When given the opportunity they really respond. This gives them the opportunity to be leaders because they can demonstrate the appropriate behaviors.”
Betsy Bryant, who also teaches kindergarten at Emerson, said that at the start of the two weeks there were a couple of students who weren’t able to go to the restroom by themselves.
“Now they can,” Bryant said. “That’s such a huge step. They’ve also learned how to open their milk cartons by themselves. Some of them didn’t know there last names, and now they do.”
Bryant said being in Jump Start Kindergarten makes a noticeable difference.
“They are going to be ready because they are developing a school routine,” she said.
Jump Start Kindergarten has been a very popular program in Jackson County and is making a big impact, Read said.
“The outcomes are easily measured and are significant,” she said. “And the best part is, the kids were having so much fun they probably didn’t even know they were learning.”