Evergreen Elementary School in Rohnert Park will be hosting its first-ever “Kinder Camp,” Aug. 5 and 6, a chance for Kindergarteners to get a taste of school before their official first day the following week.
“One of our teachers, Laura Lightfoot, used to work at John Reed Elementary,” says Jen Hansen, Principal of Evergreen Elementary. “At John Reed the kids would start the first three days of school and not be assigned to a classroom. They would observe the kids that way and then place them in classes after that. Laura brought that idea for us to check out, but we thought parents might be nervous not knowing who their child’s teacher is by the first day of school. So we thought we’d combine the two ideas with the Kinder Camp.”
Besides easing the children into school, especially those with no prior preschool or daycare experience, the Kinder Camp also helps school staff assess the children in order to organize well-balanced classrooms. In the past school officials spent a few minutes per child to assess English and math skills and evaluate behavior, to effectively create balanced classrooms.
“What we’ve done in the past is have about ten minute time slots for kids to come in,” says Hansen. “They would do an assessment with each of the teachers and we’d see if they knew the letter names and sounds and see what numbers they knew and just get a general idea of their behavior. The reason we did that in the past is because we wanted to make balanced classes and make sure we didn’t have all the kids who knew how to read in one class and all the ones who didn’t know how to read in another class.”
With the Kinder Camp approach Evergreen can offer a fun and engaging way for students to meet new friends, learn the campus, and get any school apprehension out of the way without the rest of the school being on campus yet.
“It’s a way to not only get the observations of the kids and see where they are, but also to build a community with them,” says Hansen. “The kids can get to know each other a little before the first day of school. In kindergarten the first day of school can be really scary and we sometimes have kids cry. For some they’ve never left home before or been away from their parents. So to be able to come and get those jitters out of the way the week before school starts we think will really make the first day of school a lot smoother for us and will help us make sure we have the best environment set up for the school year.”
This coming school year Evergreen has 84 kindergarteners registered, and 70 have already confirmed their participation in Kinder Camp. The kindergarteners will be placed in three different classrooms, and some in a combined Kindergarten/first grade class. The Kinder Camp will also allow the school to complete some of the required paperwork needed from parents, prior to school starting, and will give the parents a chance to meet as well.
“All the Cotati and Rohnert Park schools do the assessment piece in some form, mostly how we did it in the past,” says Hansen. “This is a total experiment. It’s a lot of work on the front end for us but we’re hoping that will really pay off in the end. Hopefully we’ll get good feedback and have the kids have a good start.”