Education, Springfield

Elementary welcome events prepare families for kindergarten

Aliya Hall/The Chronicle

SPRINGFIELD – For families, kindergarten is a big change and the Springfield School District wants to make that transition as easy as possible for parents who are getting ready for the 2020-21 kindergarten registration.
That’s why the district is holding welcome events at each of their 12 elementary schools to give families an opportunity to meet teachers and ask any questions they might have.
”(It also) gives kids an opportunity to come into the school, oftentimes they’re nervous about what it’s going to be like, and it gives them an opportunity to see the classrooms and that it’s not scary,” Thurston Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher Cheri Westerkamp said.
She added that she knows parents enjoy having a chance to meet with their children’s teachers and that they can get information upfront about what to expect.
The number one tip that Westerkamp has for new kindergarten parents is socialization.
”If your child hasn’t been around other children, I would recommend taking them to the pool and park,” she said. ”Have that time to play with other kids and be around other kids.”
Along with that, she also suggests parents work with their child on knowing and recognizing their name, especially having it written with the capital first and the rest lowercase.
”I think that’s the hardest thing for kids to do when they come in,” Westerkamp explained. ”If we can teach them the right way of capital first and lowercase the rest that will make a huge difference for them.”
Many of the tools that children learn in kindergarten are meant to increase hand strength. Activities like cutting, coloring, gluing and Play-Doh are all designed to help build that endurance. Westerkamp said it’s common for parents to not promote scissors because they’re worried about what their children will cut, but she said that working on that skill-set will promote hand strength that will be beneficial later on. Westerkamp used the example of playing on the monkey bars, when the children first start to play on them they can hardly hold onto the bar in the beginning, but after a few months they can start to move across the bars.
”It’s because they’ve strengthened their hands based off all the things we’ve done in class,” she said.
Along with tips, Westerkamp also cleared up misconceptions that parents might have, which is kindergarten is academic.
”Families come in and think, ‘When I was in school …’ but you have to think about when you were in kindergarten,” she explained. ”It’s different than first grade. We’re socializing and introducing letters in the alphabet and doing basic math.”
She added that parents will also think their child will be reading by the end of kindergarten, and while some do, not all students have to be. Homework is also something that Thurston Elementary doesn’t do in kindergarten due to the research they’ve seen about it not being beneficial for families.
Parents will have to pick up a register packet and turn it in, to give the school a way of contacting the parents and share pertinent information. The packet also has welcome information about what the child will need for school, immunizations and absences. There is also a parent survey, which Westerkamp said is the most crucial for the teachers because it gives more specific information about the child.
Westerkamp has been teaching kindergarten in Springfield for 14 years, but has been teaching for 31 years. She said that teaching kindergarten is the best.
”They come in as babies and they leave as students,” she said. ”For me, getting to watch that growth and change is the most rewarding thing.”
Springfield Schools will hold registration and welcoming events on the following dates:
Centennial: 5:30 – 7 p.m., March 10
Douglas Garden: 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., March 12
Guy Lee: 5:30-6:30 p.m., March 11
Maple: 5 – 7 p.m., March 12
Mt. Vernon: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., March 3
Page: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., March 12
Ridgeview: 6 to 7 p.m., March 5
Riverbend: 6 to 7 p.m., March 12
Thurston Elementary: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., March 11
Two Rivers – Dos Ríos: 5:30-6:30 p.m., March 5
Walterville: 5:30-6:30 p.m., March 5
Yolanda: 6 to 7 p.m., March 10



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