Starting Kindergarten is an important step in every child’s life. From staying focused in class to getting along with 30 other children, it’s a major adjustment for any new student. With the pandemic, Kindergarten has only become more challenging. In addition to the usual issues, children are moving between in-person, hybrid, and virtual learning, and adapting to starting school is harder than ever – not to mention that teachers are burned out trying to manage classes in a structure that never stays the same.
Beth West, an Early Interventions educator at Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (HSCDSB), has found The Learning Partnership’s Welcome to Kindergarten
(WTK) to be a tremendously helpful resource for HSCDSB’s youngest students both before and after the pandemic.
“Welcome to Kindergarten … provides a base that’s similar for all of our schools but can still be tailored for specific needs.”
– Beth West, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board
“It’s important because all the foundations are built in those years. Not just academic foundations, but social and emotional too,” said West. “Welcome to Kindergarten curates different, well-thought-out resources that connect teachers across our board... it provides a base that’s similar for all of our schools but can still be tailored for specific needs.”
The strong yet flexible foundation of WTK
“Our Kindergarten learning philosophy is that a teacher is a co-learner with the student, and that students at that age learn through inquiry, investigation, and following their own curiosity,” explains West. She notes that Welcome to Kindergarten aligns perfectly with Huron-Superior CDSB's values, thanks to its solid foundation in learning fundamentals and inquiry-based learning.
West notes that the Welcome to Kindergarten resource bag intuitively generates many activities that are as fun as they are educational. Some of her favourite resource items include magnetic numbers and letters, and a book called Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature,
which encourages children to ask questions and identify patterns while going for a walk.
The book Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature, is included in the WTK Resource Bag. Part of WTK’s “Talk, Read, Create & Play Every Day” philosophy, it encourages families and children to ask questions and identify patterns while going for a walk.
Overall, Welcome to Kindergarten’s versatile program has played a major part in equalizing and streamlining Huron-Superior's consistent high-quality virtual Kindergarten programming. Huron-Superior CDSB shared Welcome to Kindergarten lessons online because of the need for virtual teaching, and they plan to keep the website
up even after the pandemic. West is happy to report that offering Welcome to Kindergarten activities on their website provides an accessible resource for parents and educators regardless of circumstances.
Adapting WTK: Creativity and community
One of the most unique adaptations of Welcome to Kindergarten has been at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Elliot Lake, Ontario. Under the leadership of principal Andrew Chi, they offer Welcome to Kindergarten through a program named “Future Saints Kindergarten Preparation Academy.” The Academy runs weekly and each session has its own academic focus. Teachers who are experts in language, math and science join the Kindergarten class to support each session. The program has been a hit with students and parents alike.
“It was really great community building,” said West. “People who are enrolled for next year, or even people in the community who aren’t enrolled at their school... are all welcomed.” She credits the Welcome to Kindergarten program and the staff’s ‘come-one, come-all' spirit with making parents and their children feel ready and excited to start school.
Other schools in Huron-Superior CDSB have also gotten creative with teaching Welcome to Kindergarten. Some Kindergarten teachers have filmed video tours of their schools for parents and students to get acquainted with their future classrooms, while others have allowed pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners to meet each other virtually using avatars that can walk around or sit and talk together. Lastly, Kindergarten teachers are learning to connect with parents via social media and have created posts that have encouraged more parents to register for their programs.
Huron-Superior CDSB is a shining example of the value of Welcome to Kindergarten and the many ways it can be adapted for virtual environments.
Educators throughout HSCDSB are connecting with families via social media, such as this video posted on TikTok encouraging parents to register for their programs.