Kindergartners at three Etowah County schools get Kinder Camp

Kindergartners at three Etowah County schools get Kinder Camp
Kindergarteners at West End Elementary School in Altoona get a taste of school through Kinder Care, a program through the United Way of Etowah County. Kinder Care prepares youngsters for school by teaching them basic skills they may not have learned at home: how to sit still in class, how to stand in an orderly line; and how to go through the lunch line and hold a lunch tray. Emily Sims, Success by Six program director for UWEC, said that learning the basics helps kids avoid much stress and fears during the first few weeks of school. Kids receive a free bookbag with essential school supplies, which helps struggling families. (Tiffany Scott/West End Elementary School)

Life success begins with kindergarten.

That’s the finding of studies by education experts at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. A positive start in pre-K and kindergarten makes a big difference in one’s future success in school and beyond.

An Elevate grant through the Alabama Power Foundation has helped bring the Kinder Camp program to three rural schools in Etowah County schools and give children a more positive school experience, said Emily Sims, director of Success By 6 at the United Way of Etowah County (UWEC).

The Elevate grant has assisted with the cost – about $2,000 to $2,500 – to hold the early learning program at Duck Springs Elementary and Ivalee Elementary schools in Attalla, and West End Elementary in Altoona.

“We want to make sure kids and parents are ready for school,” said Sims, who earned a degree in human development and family studies at Auburn University. She presented Kinder Camp at West End Elementary School on Aug. 1, the first day of classes.

Sims noted that kindergartners must take in so much at the beginning of school: They learn to wait their turn, stand in line, be still and listen, and find their way to the bathroom and gym. Teachers realize that learning new routines is stressful to kids, and the program aims to make learning easier.

Kinder Camp makes a huge difference for youngsters at West End Elementary School in Altoona, said Principal Paige Cash. Kinder Camp establishes the basic routines and makes for an easier start for teachers.

“The program is fabulous,” said Cash, who earned her elementary education degree from Jacksonville State University, and holds master’s degrees in counseling and administration. “It’s great for the community, great for parents and for the kids transitioning into school.

Kindergartners stand in line Aug. 1, the first day of school. (Tiffany Scott/West End Elementary School)

“I think it removes the nervousness and beginning-of-school jitters,” Cash said. “School can be very new to them, so when it’s time for school, they’ve already experienced it through Kinder Camp.”

UWEC started Kinder Camp in 2014 to help with schools in rural counties without day care programs.

“The purpose is to teach them the 1-2-3s and ABCs about their new routine – sitting in their seats, where the gym is, how to go through the lunch line and learn how to hold the lunch tray,” said Sims, who has worked with UWEC for 10 years.

Every child takes home a free backpack with essential school supplies, which is a big help for struggling families, Sims said. About 100 children attend the program annually, and UWEC has given away 400 backpacks.

Kinder Camp helps students and parents know what to expect about school.

“They hear from the principal, teachers and nurses that first day,” Sims said.

The program helps everyone be more at ease, Sims said, and moves children toward being able to reach their potential. Kids are ready to face their first week at school.

“The goal is when the kids get out of the car, they’re confident and it takes away their fears that kids have when they’re not used to a school setting,” she said.

Cash said that Kinder Camp offers a great opportunity to make parents aware of different resources available through UWEC. She and her teachers appreciate all of the sponsors that make Kinder Camp possible.

“It’s a wonderful thing for our students and our community,” she said.

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