By Alex Hutton, Brandon Sprague, and Linsey Madison
At the start of a new school year, teachers prepare for another year according to the predefined curriculum, Dana Campbell, on the other hand, is starting from scratch to create a brand new age appropriate curriculum for pre-K students.
Spencerport is one of only two schools on the west side that do not have pre-K. The Spencerport Central School District will be piloting a pre-K program in the Fall of 2020, taught by Campbell and an accompanying teacher aid.
Songs, finger plays and story time, are all things that Campbell is incorporating into the curriculum for the pilot. Campbell is working hard with a team of special assignment teachers to develop the plans for the program.
“We are planning all the little things that you don’t think about like parent conferences, writing report cards, and coming up with curriculum maps and schedules for the day. A lot of these things are already done for you when you join the school district. With this we’re starting from scratch to make it developmentally appropriate for these young children,” said Campbell.
“There’s a lot more planning going into it then I expected but it’s exciting. Challenging and exciting all at the same time,” said Campbell.
The program is part of a two-year pilot to assist students with academic readiness and transitional support for kindergarten. Any child who lives within the Spencerport boundaries and will be four years old before Dec.1 2020, will be eligible for free pre-K.
A typical day for the students will start with a table top activity that they can do independently while the teachers are getting all the students adjusted and making sure they are happy. They will have a daily “circle time” with songs, finger plays and stories. The kids will do different activities on literacy and numeracy. The curriculum will be mostly play based with a high focus on building inquiry.
Campbell will teach two sessions at Munn Elementary School, mornings from 8:30-11 a.m., and afternoons from 1-3:30 p.m. with up to 18 students per session.
Unlike other districts, Spencerport will offer transportation to and from Munn on a school bus. Spencerport will be the first district in Monroe County to transport pre-K students.
The bus is equipped with five-point harnesses for the students and will include a bus attendant to make sure kids are properly strapped in and safe. The program will have its own bus route picking up only pre-K students.
“I am really hopeful that the kids that attend pre-K will be able to step foot in the door of kindergarten and be ready to learn,” said Campbell. “But my main hope is to really help develop their social emotional learning skills, to get them to use their language to express their needs and to look for cues around them to understand how people are feeling, and to be able to verbalize those feelings. Those things take an awful lot of time in kindergarten. If we could knock those things out in pre-K, kindergarten teachers can start teaching curriculum a lot sooner and be able to work more on academic tasks.”
Preschool is an important step for transitioning into education. Pre-K helps children develop social skills that will help them succeed in school; skills such as listening, sharing and taking turns. Breanne Eason, a 4th grade special education teacher at Bernabi Elementary School with two young daughters, knows first-hand the impact of pre-K on kindergarten preparedness.
“The advantages of being in a formal pre-K are huge just because of learning how to sit at a carpet, learning how to follow classroom expectations, learning how to take turns when you’re speaking, those are things that you aren’t going to learn in an at home day care setting. And those are huge indicators of success in kindergarten,” said Eason.
“We saw a lot of that with my daughter in her formal pre-K program, she went into kindergarten being so prepared and that’s the one thing I wish I had for my younger daughter, I wish she was in a school for her pre-K, she’s in a daycare center that runs a curriculum in full day pre-K but she’s still not in a school, she’s not learning to transition to the gym, to the library, to eat in the cafeteria, those are things that kindergarten teachers need to spend a lot of time working on in September whereas if we can build that readiness they can get to that learning so much faster,” said Eason.
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Ty Zinkiewich, has been working on implementing a prekindergarten program for years. To determine the effectiveness of the program, Zinkiewich, is working on creating quantifiable data to measure the success of the pre-K students as they progress in their schooling.
“Our report cards are really going to help with that, right now we have things as simple as ability to count to 10, ability to recognize letters and numbers. All those things that we have for kindergarten in terms of our screening process are benchmarks that we’re developing and currently working on for our report cards,” said Zinkiewich.
Studies have found that kids who attend public preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t. Zinkiewich plans to analyze the effectiveness of the program and the readiness of the students.
“We will be working with kindergarten teachers the following year seeing if students were prepared, so of these 36 students that were part of the pre-K program, we need to gain some feedback from the teachers the following year on the standards we have for kindergarten and if they have met them,” said Zinkiewich.
Come September, armed with her new curriculum, Campbell will be welcoming the class of pre-K students to the Spencerport School District.