This article originally appeared in the summer 2015 Harker Quarterly.
It’s official: The first group of Harker Preschool students to go on to attend kindergarten at the lower school are now rising grade 1 students. The young trailblazers now join the ranks of “big kids” on the Bucknall campus, paving the way for a new batch of preschoolers to matriculate to kindergarten come the start of the school year.
With kindergarten successfully behind them, the students have reached an important milestone by completing their initial year at the lower school.
“We were so proud to send our first group of preschoolers off to kindergarten. It has been so much fun to stop by and see them thriving in their K classrooms this year. I look forward to watching them grow for the next 12 years! In fact, I hope to be invited to tell fun stories of their preschool years at their high school graduation!” enthused Andrea Hart, director of Harker Preschool.
Going to kindergarten is an important life event that can leave preschoolers and their families feeling excited, as well as a bit worried, according to The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the world’s largest organization for early childhood educators.
To help ease the transition, Harker Preschool prides itself on its rich program, which prepares students to enter a kindergarten classroom. Classes utilize curriculum materials that align with those used in kindergarten, and their schedules follow many of the routines they can expect in a Harker kindergarten class.
Learning goals are achieved through teacher- directed experiences designed to expose children to school-age learning situations and expectations in a developmentally appropriate manner, explained Hart. And for the youngest kindergarten-eligible students (many of whom might require a bit more guidance) Harker Preschool offers a special transitional kindergarten program.
All of the preschool classrooms practice and develop important school-age social and emotional skills, including listening, following directions, waiting and sharing. Highly trained teachers are facilitators, observers and instructors for students. Teachers guide children through the enriching environment they have established by supporting, challenging and encouraging them to be sure they are thinking creatively and critically as they explore and learn.
Michelle Anderson, who teaches kindergarten at Harker, said having an on- campus preschool is extremely exciting for her kindergarten team. “We love the fact that we can articulate with the current preschool teachers about ways we can bridge the gap and make it a successful transition for each child who decides to continue on at Harker. The former preschool students made new friends and loved kindergarten, and now they are more than ready to enter first grade in the fall,” she said.
Former Harker Preschool student and recent kindergarten grad Spencer Mo said he enjoyed kindergarten at Harker because he could play Legos with his new best friends. “At Harker kindergarten, I learned how to be confident. I learned how to be nice to others and show respect,” he said.
When asked for his thoughts during the school year, Mo’s classmate Rishi Kutty said he liked being at the lower school for kindergarten because, “I play more outside games like soccer. I also like my language arts class where I can write stories.”
Other students said they enjoyed the wider variety of classes in kindergarten, like being able to take computers, P.E. and math lab. Former Harker Preschool student and recent kindergarten graduate Lauren Rossi said that what she loved best about kindergarten was science.
“In preschool we got to watch tadpoles turn into frogs. … In kindergarten we watched caterpillars turn into butterflies,” she recalled.
And, like those science class caterpillars that grew into butterflies, the former preschoolers (turned kindergartners, turned rising grade 1 students) are enjoying learning to spread their own wings as part of the Harker community.