Kindergarteners get ready for school

Audrey Wigfield said her favorite part of Kindergarten Camp was riding the school bus — and making crafts, playing on the playground, meeting new friends and meeting her teacher.

Basically, the four-day kindergarten prep camp at Ferguson Township Elementary School earlier this week was one of the highlights of the 5-year-old’s summer.

“It’s almost like I’m the one with feelings of abandonment because she’s loving it so much,” Audrey’s mother, Toya Wigfield, said with a laugh.

Audrey is Wigfield’s first child to enter school.

She said it’s a “nerve-wracking but exciting time.”

“It’s kind of a milestone and something I can tell she’s really excited for,” Wigfield said. “She went to preschool (at Grace Lutheran Church), which prepared her for this, but having Kindergarten Camp is something that is like extra preparation. You get a feel for what she can really expect when getting to school, but it’s just as helpful for the parents as it is the students, and she’s really embracing it.”

Principal Charlotte Zmyslo said Ferguson Township Elementary was the first school in State College Area School District to implement Kindergarten Camp about eight years ago.

It’s annually held as a way to help make the transition into the first day of school smoother, kindergarten teacher Gayle Engle said.

“We want to make sure the child, and their parents (or guardians), are acclimated,” she said. “They do a lot of camp activities like meeting teachers; visiting classrooms; learning etiquette on the bus, and in the cafeteria and bathroom; and just giving them time to see what a day in kindergarten is like.”

Engle is heading into her 15th year as a kindergarten teacher.

She and fellow kindergarten teachers Lisa Harrington and Mary Macalus said they have just as many tips for parents and guardians of children headed to school, as they do for students.

“It can be a nervous and excited time, but we do our best to make it an easy transition for students and their families, and make it relaxed,” Harrington said. “We’re with the kiddos for six hours a day, and like to build that trust with them.”

The teachers suggest parents and guardians stay relaxed but also stay connected to what their child is up to in school.

“We like them to know that teachers have their best interest,” Engle said. “We love their child, and are there to help them and their mommies and daddies.”

The three kindergarten classes at Ferguson Township Elementary have 18 or 19 students enrolled this year — a number the teachers said is just right to teach to the mass, but to also help kids build individual skills.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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