Starting a brand-new year in a brand-new grade can be daunting for any student, especially for kindergartners coming into a school for the first time. While many are capable of adapting on their own, Greenfield Elementary uses a “Kindergarten Jump-Start” that allows these new blackhawks to see what school will be all about.

“It’s nice because we can focus on just kindergartners first,” says Greenfield Principal J.R. Dachel, “for two weeks, we have two sessions from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and noon to 3 p.m. and it gives the students an idea of what the school is like, what they’ll be doing and also starting them on the basic skills coming into kindergarten like writing their names.”

The two teachers that have taken it upon themselves to lead these new students into kindergarten are Russell Engler and Sarah Dodge who each have their own classroom and get to introduce two full groups of kindergartners to their new learning environment over this week and next.

“We’ve had Jump-Start ever since I started here in 2006,” said Engler, “we’ve done it before that – I would say somewhere around 20 years.” In the last 13 years of teaching Jump-Start, Engler has noticed the difference that it makes in the students. When asked if it served as an overall benefit he replied, “Oh, absolutely! The kids get used to the layout of the school, we practice the rules, we practice where the playground is- how to get out there, how to come back in, what the expectations are – we even try simple things like not being afraid of the bathroom, so there is a lot that we get to do in Jump-Start.”

“I would say this is my fourth summer doing this specifically,” said Dodge, “we used to do a Jump-Start program for some of the older kids too, so I was doing that for a while first.” Just as Engler stated, Dodge is capable of seeing the benefit from the Jump-Start program from just a short time into the process. “It’s wonderful,” she said, “it’s just two teachers, two classes and the principal, so it’s much quieter for them to get them used to their classroom and the school and what is expected while they’re here.”

The Jump-Start program not only helps the kindergartners coming to school for the first time, it also helps the teachers themselves. “It’s a great way for us to get a good picture of where they are at,” says Engler, “especially for some of the kids in the district who never went to 4K at all or have never been in the district. This way we know ahead of time how they’re doing and maybe we can recommend some changes for that particular student if they need it.”

While Greenfield is not alone in the Jump-Start Program, there are many schools that do not use this practice in providing new kindergartners the extra time and resources to become acclimated to their surroundings. In any case, these future blackhawks are certainly getting ready for Greenfield as brand-new kindergartners in the next exciting school year.

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