Kent State Students Create Bridges to Kindergarten
Kent State University students continue to embrace the importance of education throughout the year in several low-income schools in Akron, Ohio.
The group, Bridges to Kindergarten, has increased the number of team leaders, staff and pre-kindergarten students from Akron for the third year in a row, all while lending a helping hand at several low-income public schools. Bridges to Kindergarten is expanding from a two-week summer camp to year-round literacy support at Rankin, Crouse and Schumacher public schools. At least three literacy tutors will be supporting and assisting kindergarten children throughout the school year.
The project is a collaboration between the agency Project GRAD Akron and early childhood faculty and students at Kent State. Three years ago, it originally started as only a summer camp focusing on kindergarten expectations and preparation.
“While at camp, children learn skills in literacy, math, social and emotional experiences, cooperative play, interaction and more,” says Kent State Associate Professor and Early Childhood Coordinator Janice Kroeger. “We also have several events for families, so parents can become involved in the transition and support their child.”
Over the two-week span, parents are able to attend several events put together by the Bridges to Kindergarten staff. Parents attend two breakfasts: one on school orientation and one related to kindergarten expectations supported by receiving kindergarten teachers. Families also attend a ceremonial event on the last day of camp.
“B2K is a wonderful program,” says Tonisha Glover, a sophomore early childhood education major at Kent State. “By the end of camp, the students know how to walk in a single-file line, how to play nice on the playground, how to sit quietly during story time, how to participate during dance and singing time and much more.”
While the pre-kindergarten children are at camp, the staff observes them and fills out observational assessments for each child. Also, parents are asked questions about children’s strengths, skills, family experiences and other important information. The staff then gives the screening forms to the appropriate kindergarten teacher; therefore, the teacher knows how to better respond to the student when the school year approaches.
“We had 32 children attend our camp this summer,” Kroeger says. “If the teachers in these schools know that some of their students already accomplished some of these basic kindergarten routines and the parents continue a relationship with their child’s school, it can make the whole group a lot more manageable, thus, more success for everyone in the classroom.”
Bridges to Kindergarten has expanded from five to nine students in the past three years. The number of children has increased from 18 to 32 over the three-year span. The staff and community look forward to an increase in children participants and success as they continue their education.
“Our main focus is on each individual child and school success,” Kroeger said. “We don’t just look at it as a kindergarten experience, but schooling as a long-term process that helps students and parents understand that kindergarten is connected to high school and college experiences.”
Aside from giving Akron parents and children lifelong skills in education, interaction and other experiences, the Kent State students involved are also gaining valuable knowledge. Most of the students have an early childhood education background, but students in family studies and American Sign Language also have been a part of the camp. They are learning leadership skills, teamwork and decision making in various circumstances, all while fostering a sense of connection to the community and society.
For more information or to become part of the Bridges to Kindergarten staff, contact Janice Kroeger at Jkroege1@kent.edu or 330-672-2580.