This week at nine Springfield elementary schools, kids are making friends, learning social skills and getting ready to start their formal education. They’re attending Kindergarten Camp, hosted by the Community Partnership of the Ozarks. KSMU's Michele Skalicky reports.
The camp started Monday and goes through Friday at Bingham, Bissett, Boyd, Bowerman, Robberson, Watkins, Weaver, Westport and York Elementary Schools.
This is the sixth year it’s been offered, but this is the first year to have it at multiple sites, and more kids than ever are being served. Erica Harris, director of early childhood and family development for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, says 215 kids are attending the camp this week for 2 ½ hours each day in preparation for kindergarten.
"They learn so much. They learn not only the A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's and colors and those basic skills that we all think of when we think of kindergarten readiness, but they're learning to stand in line and to ask good questions and to problem solve. They're learning to get along with others," she said.
She says many of the kids attending have never been in a classroom setting and have never had to follow directions or work in a group.
"They're learning a great deal that will make them a core group of in their kindergarten classrooms when they arrive in about a month," she said.
Harris says studies show that 20 percent of kids entering Springfield Public Schools each year as kindergartners aren’t ready to be there. The camp addresses the needs of those kids and gets them ready for their first day of kindergarten. And she says the camp allows educators to spot problems and address them early. One child attending camp this week was diagnosed with learning disabilities. The district is already in the process of hiring a paraprofessional to assist in his classroom, so, not only will he get the extra help he needs, but the teacher will be able to focus more on the classroom as a whole.
The five boys and girls in this classroom at Bingham were busy playing with Play Dough as their teacher watched.
The dots one little girl made in her dough provided a learning opportunity as the teacher asked her to count them.
Kylie Boone said she’d already made one friend this week while Abigail Cluttor said she’d made a lot of friends.
And this reporter told them something they’d already figured out.
"'Kindergarten is so much fun. You guys will love it."
"I know. I came here the other day, and I liked it," Abigail said.
Kindergarten Camp is funded through community support—funding from local businesses as well as private family foundations. Harris said they’d love to expand the program even more next year, but it’s going to take even more support from the community. A $40 donation will send a child to camp for a week, and an $800 donation will send 15 to 20 kids to camp. To learn more, click here.
Racing to Read
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander stopped by the Kindergarten Camp at Bingham Monday afternoon to read to students and to promote his office’s new early childhood literacy initiative, Racing to Read. According to a news release, Kander established the statewide program this year to help strengthen and expand both the quality and availability of library services to address early literacy needs for Missouri families.
The Secretary of State’s Office partnered with the Springfield-Greene County Library District to develop the initiative.
The program gives particular emphasis to parent and caregiver education.
Grants worth $300,000 from the Missouri State Library have been awarded to 29 public library districts in Missouri to start or bolster early childhood literacy programming this summer. The Springfield-Greene County Library District is using a portion of its grant funding to support literacy enrichment at Kindergarten Camp.