GREENFIELD — Landen Baxter worked on writing his name. Lucy Reed practiced numbers and letters. Both learned how to walk in line and how to open a milk carton that comes with a school lunch.
For older students, these accomplishments might not seem like a big deal, but educators say for 5-year-old incoming kindergarten students who might have never have set foot in a school, mastering simple skills might mean they enter the classroom more confident and begin their academic careers on the right foot.
Landen and Lucy were two of about 45 incoming kindergarten students enrolled in the recent five-day Kindergarten 101 course, offered by Greenfield-Central schools and the Hancock County Purdue Extension for the sixth year. The class seeks to prepare students for the start of school; preference is given to those who have not been in preschool or daycare.
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This sixth year marks an expansion for the program, as Greenfield-Central offered two more sessions for the program, and Eastern Hancock Schools Corp. offered the program for the first time to incoming kindergartners in its district.
“It’s just a sneak peek of what kindergarten will be like,” said Megan Addison, Purdue University Extension health and human sciences educator.
Purdue Extension leaders began working to develop a kindergarten readiness program six years ago after county educators expressed concerns about incoming students starting their academic career unprepared.
Those enrolled in the one-week program learn school routines like raising their hands to speak, waiting patiently in line, using school supplies like scissors and experiencing the school cafeteria and a school bus, Addison said.
In addition, two parent meetings are offered so parents can learn school policies and procedures and how to be a part of their child’s educational experience, she said.
Greenfield-Central hires teachers and social workers to staff the program, and grant funding pays for backpacks, t-shirts and other items the children receive, Addison said.
Youngsters who take Kindergarten 101 begin the week uncertain and leave feeling more self-assured, said Greg Vogel, a J.B. Stephens Elementary School first-grade teacher who taught Kindergarten 101 for the fifth time this year.
Jennifer Deno, who teaches kindergarten at Weston Elementary School, taught Kindergarten 101 for the first time this summer.
The sessions teach a mix of academic information and social skills students need to know in order for the school day to go smoothly, she said.
“I love it,” she said. “It gives students a really good idea of what kindergarten will be like.”