NEW COLUMBIA — As Jen Neitz pointed to a board in the front of a classroom at White Deer Elementary School, she challenged the students to raise their arms and point to letters she was highlighting on the board.
As the students raised their arms, and extended their fingers, Neitz told the students they were using the muscles in their arms as part of the learning exercise.
For approximately six weeks this summer, 45 children who will be entering kindergarten next month in the Milton Area School District have been participating in the district’s Jumpstart Program.
“It’s a great opportunity to give them a jump start to what they can expect in a kindergarten classroom,” Lauren Steiner, one of the teachers involved with the program, said.
In addition to Neitz and Steiner, teachers Jackie Martin and Sarah Driver are leading the program, along with ESL aide Vicente Ramariez and foster grandparent Carol Reedy.
Dr. Brian Ulmer, the district’s director of Secondary Education, said the program is included in the district’s budget each year. Transportation for students to the school is provided by the district.
Ulmer noted that the district tracks the progress of the students who attend the program to make sure it is beneficial for them.
Steiner said the program is meeting from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. each Monday through Thursday for approximately six weeks this summer. It was offered as an option to families with students entering kindergarten.
Through the program, she said students are introduced to curriculum they will be learning in school. Focus is also placed on developing classroom and social skills.
“They become much more confident being in a group like this,” Steiner said. “They are learning the expectations of what they are to do (in the classroom).”
Each session begins with the teachers welcoming the students and discussing what will occur that day.
“We introduce new letters, we read stories, we do math,” she said.
Recess and a lunch time are also included.
Although classroom assignments have not yet been finalized, Steiner said students also get familiar with the teachers and staff they will see at school on a daily basis.
While some students attending have previous experience in daycare or pre-school settings, Steiner said some have never been in a classroom-type setting.
She noted that the transition to the Jumpstart Program was initially difficult for some students this year.
“We had a lot of crying at the beginning,” Steiner said. “After that, they love it.”
By getting used to attending school through the summer program, Steiner said students will have less fear on the first day of school.
“They just come in ready (on the first day of school),” Steiner said. “You don’t have to spend as much time focusing on the routines.”
Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.