More than 50 students heading into Mayflower Elementary School this August met at the school on Monday for their first ever Kindergarten Camp.
Parents dropped their kids off at 7:30 a.m., equipped with a towel or blanket for nap time. The camp, which goes into Wednesday, lasts until 3:30 p.m. each day, giving the group of newcomers a chance to experience the school day first hand before school starts.
“We do kindergarten camp to kind of get to know the students before they come to school and let the students get to know what it’s like in the day of a kindergartener, coming in to see the building, getting to know where the cafeteria is, getting to know who the teachers are and getting to adjust to those routines that they’ll start doing when they come to kindergarten," Whitney Adams, a kindergarten teacher at the school, told the Log Cabin Democrat on Tuesday.
Each year, she said, they do a theme and this year's is dinosaurs with themed crafts, snacks, music, books and more.
"It's all dinosaur all day," Adams laughed.
She said the three-day event is beneficial for the kids because they take on learning how to do simple tasks like walking in line and listening in class.
At this point, Adams said, some of the students have gone through preschool but others haven't.
“Just coming into this more structured environment is really helpful for a lot of the students and I think it’s helpful for us to," she said. "We get to know the students and they get to know us, so we kind of know what to expect on the first day of school.”
In addition, teachers are also able to walk the new students through basic assessments to see where each is at individually before school starts.
“It helps us get an idea of what their needs are as far as lesson planning and knowing what their educational needs are going to be," Adams said.
That assessment tool, she said, is used throughout the entire year to measure their growth and "just how far they've come."
Adams has been teaching for seven years but has only come to Mayflower recently; this is her second kindergarten camp with the district.
At her previous school, they had nothing like this but just experiencing last year's, Adams said she could see a difference by the end of the academic year.
"By the end of kindergarten, they really know the routines of the school," she said.
Adams said as the year progresses, so does their confidence.
She said so far, Tuesday being just the second day, she had already began to see a change in how they walked down the hallway
“I already think, just based on drop off and getting to the classroom, I could already see a huge difference in just coming down the hallways today than yesterday," Adams said.
In addition to the structure aspect, she said the camp also gives teachers a glimpse into each kid's individual personality as well.
“Just kind of how our classroom is going to mesh together and how we’re going to need to adapt to meet the needs of the students," Adams said. "Here, I feel like I've really gotten to spend some good, one-on-one time with them."
It's beneficial to the students and their families — good for them to know the teachers and who they're dropping their children off with — but, she said, it's also good for the teachers.
"It makes me much less nervous," Adams said, referring to those first day of school jitters. "Just really helps that first day to of school to know the students before they come in.
"My favorite part about kindergarten camp is really just getting to see the faces again, getting to see parents who I might have had another student of theirs ... I don't know, I just like to see the community come together.”
She said she feels the teachers, principals and parents have done a great job working together to make the camp happen this week, her students looking as if they're all ready to head off.
"I just think it's a really great joint effort that benefits everybody," Adams said.
Mayflower Elementary School's first day of school is August 13, as is the rest of the district's.
“I think I'm most excited to get my classroom and get in with them and get our routine started and start building that classroom family," Adams said, excitedly.
She mentioned that a lot of thee rules, procedures and hallway etiquette type lessons they have done during kindergarten camp, students will again experience that first week, devoting a lot of time at first to routine alone.
"We spend part of the morning just practicing going to the cafeteria and going through the line or just practicing walking to the playground," she said. "I think it’s really important those first weeks of school to really focus on the routines and procedures because that’s going to make it easier to teach later on.”
Adams said she's looking forward to that first day, meeting them, and seeing them progress and growth throughout the next year, something she's always excited about.