News and Tribune

April 12, 2013

Getting to the basics: Camp Kindergarten teaches parents, kids about first year

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

CLARK COUNTY — Remember the alphabet, learn to count and listen to the teacher. But whatever you do, don’t forget your bus number.

That sage advice comes directly from those who have been there and done that — two kindergartners at Utica Elementary School named Jackson Spencer and Lily Forster.

Greater Clark County Schools hosted Camp Kindergarten on Thursday. Incoming students and parents were introduced to their elementary schools and teachers around the district to familiarize families and knock out paperwork along the way.

Kimberly Hartlage, principal at Utica Elementary, said while getting formalities out of the way, getting parents and children ready for their first year  of school was the main focus.

“Most parents come in with a concept of what their kindergarten was like and there’s really no comparison anymore,” Hartlage said. “By the end of kindergarten, children are truly reading and writing, which is probably what their parents did at the end of first grade.”

She said students got a little tour of the school and entertainment from teachers and current kindergarten students. Parents got an overview of the school and information on what they should do to prepare their children for their first day.

Hilda Kendrick, one of the kindergarten teachers at the school, said even the simplest facts are often overlooked by parents when preparing their children.

“Just the basic information, their first and last names and how to spell them, phone numbers of mom and dad, their home address are all good to teach,” Kendrick said. “We live in a society where we teach safety, and giving kids that information is helpful.”

Hartlage said reading to children, helping them follow along with words and teaching the sounds within words will give them a heads up for school.

Kendrick also said it’s a good idea to help them learn capital and lowercase letters, as well as drawing with children.

Jessica Lord said she has twins who are already in school, but there are things parents don’t consider even after enrollment is finished.

“My No. 1 suggestion is to get involved with the school as much as possible,” Lord said. “The teachers know you better and you get better communication.”

Tara Gagel also has a child already in school, but she said sometimes it’s important to look beyond ABCs and 123s.

“I think the biggest transition is that you are so focused on the academic side that you forget about the social aspects of their life,” Gagel said. “It’s a big transition for them because it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before.”

She said while children in preschool often have more instructors, a class of 24 kindergartners might have one teacher managing all of them.

She said giving children a little more independence and responsibility before they come into a classroom could be very helpful.

But Lily Forster still said when it’s time to go home, kids need to know when their number has been called at the end of the day.

“If you don’t know your bus number, you might get on the wrong bus and it might take you to a stranger’s house,” Forster said. “That would be bad.”