Communities that Care: Kindergarten fosters each pupil’s uniqueness, learning level

January 29, 2014 

Incoming kindergarten children don’t often refer to their new school by name, like Park Forest or Radio Park. Usually, it is deemed the “big kids’ school.” It’s a place where they will learn how to be a friend, be first in line as much as possible and, best of all, if they are really lucky, ride a bus to school. The adult holding their hand the first day of school, trying to wear a smile and not a tear, and the teacher greeting them so eagerly at the door, will immediately be partners to ensure that kindergarten is a wonderful experience.

State College Area School District kindergartens are true gardens of children, growing every day in an environment of care and acceptance. These classrooms are places where independence is nurtured with guidance, and academic offerings are limitless through differentiated instruction. They are places where a child’s self-esteem, social well-being, and celebration of their heritage and culture are all priorities.

It is a program led by certified, creative teachers who are involved in continuing education year round. Para-professionals are present in every kindergarten classroom, and parent volunteers are welcomed and encouraged to participate in their child’s experiences.

Children enter kindergarten with a variety of experiences, abilities and needs. Their SCASD teachers recognize that students learn and accomplish things at an individual pace; not all children learn in the same way or at the same time, but through individual, small-group and directed instruction in a large group setting, each child thrives at his/her own pace. Children meet with an instructional support teacher during the summer prior to kindergarten to complete a screening of basic skills. Once school starts, their individual teachers will screen and assess their academic strengths and areas for growth. Teachers then are able to thoughtfully plan a course of learning to help launch each child’s individual academic experience.

The physical classrooms within our district exude a warm, inviting atmosphere where the children can express their individual talents and strengths. The children are happy, engaged and secure. Their colorful work is seen from ceiling to floor, created from crayons, markers, clay, paint, colorful construction paper and an array of craft materials. Their unique creations evidence that the classroom is theirs and meant to be an expression of their creativity and hard work. Journals, stories they have written, science experiments, and buildings constructed from math manipulatives are intermingled with the drama center, computers and iPads. Books are seen everywhere — in student’s individual book buckets as well as in classroom libraries.

Each little kindergartener is unique, each one possessing different abilities, talents and interests. The common thread for all is a promise to focus on the growth and development of the individual child as a whole, complete person and to help each child begin what will hopefully be a lifelong adventure of learning.

Carol Grim is a kindergarten teacher at Radio Park Elementary School. This weekly column is a collaboration of Centre County Communities that Care serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts, and Care Partnership: Centre Region Communities that Care serving the State College Area School District.

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