By Jenn Watt
When four-year-old Tara first entered the classroom in Stuart Baker Elementary School this summer she wanted to run right back to her mother.
Shy and uneasy with the new environment and kids Tara’s main challenge was softening the emotional attachment to her mother enough to attend School’s Cool – a summer program preparing children for kindergarten.
“At the beginning she wouldn’t participate” says mother Brandy Buckler. “I had to sneak out.”
By the end of the six weeks Tara was better integrated and more secure.
“She’s participating in everything” Buckler says. “She just looks at me and says ‘bye.’”
Tara will be entering junior kindergarten in a month and the School’s Cool experience has helped her prepare to let go and enjoy school.
On Thursday Aug. 13 14 children graduated from the program and their families and friends gathered in Room 17 at SBES to congratulate them. Donning paper mortarboards decorated with feathers and stickers the kids sang A Circle’s Like A Ball and No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed as they had their pictures taken by a crowd of proud adults.
When each child is enrolled in the program their parents discuss specific goals they have says co-ordinator Krista Patterson.
Parents are given updates on their child’s progress verbally when they drop them off in the mornings and also receive a weekly newsletter about the class. At the end a final letter is given to parents about how their child progressed.
Because the children are pre-kindergarten skills such as listening for long periods of time sharing with others recognizing numbers from one to 10 and problem solving techniques are emphasized instructor Dylan Woods explained.
Children entering kindergarten from School’s Cool “aren’t starting from square one” Woods says and in some cases that makes all the difference.
Woods says he sees improvement in all the children though each child develops in different ways and at different times.
SIRCH Community Services runs School’s Cool and executive director Gena Robertson attended the ceremony on Thursday.
“This year TLDSB [Trillium Lakelands District School Board] contributed funding so that children can enter kindergarten more prepared” Robertson says.
Children who register for the program attend four days a week three hours a day for six weeks. The student-teacher ratio is eight to one. This year 14 students attended in Haliburton and 16 in Minden.
“It builds confidence and familiarizes them with routine” she says.
Parent Heather Bramham signed her daughter Julia 3 up for the class to help her get used to other kids.
She says she noticed her daughter became more interested in her fellow students and the activities over the six weeks.
“Julia tells me she’s excited [for junior kindergarten]” Bramham says. School’s Cool brought in visitors to get kids used to new concepts like the school bus and the dental hygienist.
Parent Adrienne Clark signed her daughter Kalli Berry up for School’s Cool to focus on Kalli’s concentration skills.
Clark says her daughter is full of energy and it was hard to get her to sit still for long periods of time – something kids need to be able to do in kindergarten. Kalli is her second child in the program and Clark says she saw improvements during the summer.
“It helped. Being able to sit still was the big thing” she says noting her third child will be enrolled when she gets to be the right age.