By Michelle Jenck, Years of Wellness Coordinator
Kids of all ages are back in school. For some, this will be their first year in a formal school setting. Experts say Kindergarten has become the new first grade. Students are expected to arrive with the necessary skills. Preschool and day care can provide the foundation for behavior and emotional skills necessary for school success but not all kids have these opportunities.
Enter “Kindercamps,” which are funded by the state and administered by the Northwest Early Learning Hub. Offered at local schools throughout Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, Kindercamps help students make the transition from home to school, something that is often difficult for parents and children alike.
Local Kindercamps took place in August, before the start of the school year. These are typically geared for children who may find it more challenging to make the transition, especially kids with no day care or preschool experience.
Smaller class sizes and increased adult support help students become familiar with new routines, learn to follow directions, and pay attention. Through group activities, stations, and sharing, kids learn how to take turns, care for classroom space and materials and socialize with other students.
According to Eva Manderson, Early Learning Specialist and Preschool Promise Manager for the Northwest Early Learning Hub, “Kids rise to the occasion when we set expectations and give them goals. It warms my heart to go into the classroom and see these children settling into routines, becoming leaders and role models for their peers.”
Parent education is another important component of Kindercamps. Support and partnerships are offered to encourage parent involvement in their child’s development. Research shows that parent support and engagement improves a child’s school readiness, reduces problem behaviors, enhances social skills and promotes academic success.
“Our teachers love Kindercamp,” said Liberty School Principal, Jennifer Guarcello. It is so great to have 45 students here for 2 1/2 weeks in the summer learning routines and expectations. It makes the beginning of the year so much smoother as these kiddos arrive confident, excited, and aware of expectations and routines. These 45 kinder campers became our peer models and are amazing resources for other students.”
As Sue Cody, from the “Way to Wellville” in Clatsop County notes, another important component of early learning is a focus on developing social and emotional skills. These include setting and achieving positive goals, feeling empathy and maintaining positive relationships. “Kindergarten teachers report that, of the 32 million children living in poverty or low-income homes in the United States, nearly half lack strong social-emotional skills and are not ‘ready to succeed in school,” according to a brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Penn State University. http://bit.ly/W2WRWJbrief
Just as we teach the ABCs as a foundation for literacy, current research points to the need to teach children about emotions. By recognizing, communicating about and learning to regulate emotions, students are more likely to gain the skills they need to thrive academically, mentally and physically in Kindergarten and beyond.