A transition program for new kindergarten students is currently underway in Union County.
Countdown To Kindergarten — a program made possible through a partnership with Union County Schools and Union County First Steps — prepares new kindergarten students over the summer by providing learning materials, recommending learning activities and letting the students get to know their teacher.
The statewide summer program has helped rising kindergartners successfully transition into the school environment for the past nine years.
The program — which is nationally recognized with enrollment of more than 600 children from 18 counties — involves certified kindergarten teachers from across the state conducting six visits over the summer to the homes of 20 different rising kindergartners from throughout the county.
In most cases, the child’s Countdown to Kindergarten teacher will be his or her teacher in the fall as well.
Using art supplies, books, puzzles and other educational tools the students are able to keep at home, teachers conduct learning activities with the students and families. These activities can then be replicated between parent and child, thus increasing the quality and amount of parent-child learning interactions.
The Countdown program also aims to increase parental involvement in education, introduce parents to educational resources in their communities and promote the importance of preparing children early for school success within the home and community.
The summer program ends with a celebration at the child’s school where children and parents will have the opportunity to become familiar with the kindergarten classroom and school environment.
On Thursday, students Jayden Gaymon, Mikayla Gaymon and Christopher Kirkland visited Foster Park Elementary School with their teacher, Jessica Gault. The students crafted bracelets using lettered beads to spell their names and colored beads to make patterns. While visiting the school, the students also met with Principal Barbara Palmer.
Gault said both students and parents were receptive to the program, mentioning that one student’s grandmother cried when she found out Gault would be working with her grandchild over the summer for free.
“It really gives these children an advantage,” Gault said. “They already know the teacher; they’ve been in the classroom; they’ve met the principal; and they’re already excited about it.”
Gault said she focused on number and letter recognition during program activities. For example, she taught the students to write their names in colored sand, after of course spending time playing with the sand. She also had the children roll foam dice, matching them up with written numbers.
“It gets them in the habit of what they’re going to be doing in kindergarten,” Gault said.
Countdown to Kindergarten seeks to engage families, educators and community members in a statewide effort to celebrate and support the transition into kindergarten as a significant educational and developmental milestone for children and their families.
The goal of Countdown to Kindergarten is to create awareness and knowledge for parents about the importance of home activities relating to literacy and hands-on learning leading up to kindergarten. This South Carolina program instills confidence in children who are about to enter kindergarten and the world of school, and also teaches parents how to advocate for their children within the educational system.