Educators at St. Mary's Parish School in Spring Lake and Fruitport Community Schools attribute the advanced writing and other skills to their full-time kindergarten schedules.
St. Mary's launched all-day, every-day kindergarten last fall. Fruitport has housed a full-time program for three years.
Due to changes in state funding and research that shows the benefits of all-day kindergarten, Grand Haven and Spring Lake kindergartners will join the full-time ranks this fall.
St. Mary's and Fruitport teachers and administrators say they're going to love it.
“I can't imagine doing it any other way,” said St. Mary's kindergarten teacher Katie Perez. “We have so much time during the day to really get into activities, to explore and experiment. It's just fantastic.”
St. Mary's eased the youngsters into the schedule during the course of a month.
“That worked out nicely because the kids didn't seem as tired as we expected,” said Perez, a third-year teacher. “They were in good spirits and eager to get back the next day. The biggest difference I notice is that the kids know each other a lot better because they're together all the time.
“The biggest difference I notice academically is in their writing,” Perez continued. “They're fantastic writers. They're writing paragraphs. It's phenomenal. I think that is the biggest improvement and their writing is bringing along everything else – their reading, their math skills.”
Perez said her students are counting change and, with the full-time schedule, had time to learn the legacies of the presidents on the coins. They've mastered telling time to the minute instead of the former hour benchmark. Now, many of them wear watches to school.
“Kids are so much smarter and more mature than they were in the past,” Perez said. “Kindergarten standards were lower than what these kids are capable of. Our kindergartners are astronomically well-prepared for first grade.”
St. Mary's Principal Mike DeVitt said the decision to switch to full-time kindergarten was educationally motivated.
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