GREENFIELD — Raising your hand; walking in line; knowing what it means to sit “criss-cross applesauce.”
It’s the little things that make a difference when preparing a child for those first few days of school, teachers say, and that’s what this week at J.B. Stephens has been all about.
The K101 kindergarten readiness initiative is a free week-long summer program that targets children who have not been in day care, preschool or otherwise had a social experience to prepare them to start school.
This week, educators have been working to close the gap.
They’ve focused on basic skills some parents might take for granted, such as teaching a child to focus on a task for 30 minutes or more, share with others and wait their turn.
“It might not even occur to them that their child may not have those skills or be quick to learn those skills,” said teacher Greg Vogel, one of the K101 instructors.
The program, sponsored by Hancock County Purdue Extension and Greenfield-Central School Foundation, is in its third year and is serving 20 students this summer.
Among them is Rylan Beavers, who after just three days had started to recognize his own progress.
“I’ve been learning how to write my name,” the 5-year-old said. “I’m doing OK.”
Aside from teaching basic skills, K101 also works to ease the anxiety that comes with leaving Mom and Dad.
That progress was perfectly illustrated last year, said school social worker Christy Harpold, when one girl cried on the first day of K101 but by the time the school year started was accustomed to the schedule.
“Walked in, no big deal,” Harpold said.
When K101 kicked off in 2012, it was held off-site. Moving to an actual school building has been a positive change, Vogel said.
While not every child attending this week is enrolled at J.B. Stephens, each is getting acquainted with familiar sites in an elementary school, such as the library, cafeteria and gym.
Oh – and the playground.
So much as mention that magical spot, and any of the K101 attendees will talk up a storm.
“I got to go on the swing and this swirly ladder and the slide,” said Grace Brown, 5.
It might seem trivial, bringing the children out to the playground for some free time, but it’s all part of getting young ones excited about a new experience.
On Monday, the school board accepted a $2,000 donation from the Greenfield-Central School Foundation to support the kindergarten readiness effort.
Board President Retta Livengood said the board is supportive of any program that prepares students for the rigors of starting school.
Academic standards have risen in recent years, leaving kindergarten teachers with less time to walk students through the basics.
The K101 program gives children a head start but also helps identify those who might need extra help in the long run, Livengood said.
“I think we are getting students with all ability levels into the system,” she said. “I think any kind of early intervention program will only strengthen their educational foundation.”
The program ends up being as beneficial for parents as it is for soon-to-be students, Harpold said.
The progress the children make in just a week of organized instruction is remarkable, Vogel said.
“Ducks do better in line than these kids on Mondays,” he said with a laugh.
Along with the week-long program for children, parents are invited to an evening information session to acquaint them with school personnel, attendance policies, important dates and other useful information.
Building confidence for everyone involved is key.
“Setting them up for success is what the goal is – for parents and kids,” Vogel said.
The start of the school year is just around the corner for Hancock County youth. Here’s a look at the starting dates:
Tuesday, July 29
Wednesday, July 30
Wednesday, July 30
Thursday, July 31
Kindergarteners are expected to start school having already worked on a variety of basic skills. Those include knowing how to:
• Take turns
• Focus on one task for at least 30 minutes
• Walk in a straight line
• Sit quietly during class
• Raise their hand
• Use scissors and pencils
• Obey their teacher
Source: Greenfield-Central educators