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Gearing up for kindergarten

Posted 4/12/16 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

For a parent of an incoming kindergartner, nothing is more frightening then knowing you’re about to send your child off to school, with many unknowns. And it’s not just difficult for the parent, it’s difficult for the child too. But in an attempt to help bridge that apprehension, the Watford City Elementary School has been offering a Gearing Up for Kindergarten program.
In its second year of operation, Gearing Up for Kindergarten is off to a great start with over 20 incoming kindergartners and their parents enrolled  and attending the grant-funded program, which is almost double the numbers from last year’s program.
“This is our second year putting on Gearing Up for Kindergarten, which is funded through a grant from North Dakota State University,” stated Pam Moen, Watford City Elementary School Kindergarten teacher. “We’ve actually had a really good turnout this year. By the numbers we have, we hope the program will continue year after year.”
Last year the school held two 10-week sessions of Gearing Up for Kindergarten, and between the two sessions, they had 14 incoming kindergartners with a parent attend. This year it is just the one five-week session, with between 22 and 24 incoming kindergartners coming with a parent.
“Something we did a little bit differently this year was wait and hold the program when it coincided with kindergarten registration,” stated Watford City Elementary School Kindergarten teacher Ms. Sandra Crusch. “Last year the program started in January. This year having it coincide with kindergarten registration, seems to have helped a lot and we’re really excited about our numbers.”
The program combines preschool learning activities for children, as well as provides educational opportunities for parents. As children enter kindergarten, a major transition in the life of a child and his or her parents takes place. As kids need to be ready for school, the program prepares parents and preschoolers for entry into elementary school, and sets the stage for success in school.
“For the first-time parents, it’s been really good for them to learn what to expect,” said Moen. “It’s a very eye-opening experience because kindergarten is much more rigorous nowadays. Parents are learning so much - everything from learning styles to parenting styles to behavior and safety to brain development. We are actually consolidating 16 different lessons into 10 classes.”
The program includes a classroom environment with the parent, a classroom, and preschooler. The preschooler gets to work on social skills, such as sharing, taking turns, not interrupting, and vocabulary. Parents get to be educated on the importance of reading, children’s developmental stages, and age-appropriate activities to make and take home weekly. And there are materials given out on the importance of the parent role in children’s school success.
“I think it’s been really nice for the incoming kindergartners to spend that one-on-one time with their parent during these classes,” stated Watford City Elementary School Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Jenna Cranston. “It seems like not only are the kids excited to come, but the parents have been really excited to come as well. And they get to meet new friends.”
The program, which started on March 29, will run through April 28. The five-week session will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for two hours each night. Based on need and interest, there may also be a summer session offered.