Early Childhood Success
by SHARON WELLS
Principal, Meadow Ridge Elementary School
What happens when you take 185 developmental kindergarten students and all of their teachers and put them in one school for the first time? Amazing collaboration and magical results! The 2011-2012 school year was the maiden voyage for having all of our youngest learners come together at Meadow Ridge Elementary School in the newly formed Early Childhood Center.
Our year was filled with exciting opportunities for our developmental kindergarten (DK) students. All of them participated in our school walk-a-thon last fall and our mileage club this May, focusing on being healthy in the process. We had monthly whole group celebrations around academic themes such as the study of penguins, Dr. Seuss and his wonderful rhyming books, the “Polar Express,” and learning about water filtering systems used in undeveloped countries. Speakers were brought in to talk to the classes and special assemblies were held for the interest of our DK students.
The DK teachers had the gift of being able to collaborate with each other in one building for the first time as well. Previously being in seven separate buildings, it was difficult to get together and share ideas and provide each other with support. The teachers met in monthly Professional Learning Community meetings, often ate lunch together to brainstorm new ideas, and had curriculum planning meetings throughout the year to develop and create an inspirational and effective program to best prepare their students for kindergarten.
A new program doesn’t go without the need for problem solving. A critical part of our new journey was the transportation of students from all Rockford elementary schools to and from Meadow Ridge. Special identification tags were used to identify students in the DK program and buses were labeled with animals that coordinated with the tags. Paraprofessionals worked at each school to help transfer students to appropriate buses. Special thanks to the Rockford Transportation Department for the creativity, patience and coordination efforts for this to all happen with safety as a top priority.
As our first year wraps up, we are looking forward to yet another opportunity for positive change and success when next fall our DK program moves to an all-day, everyday schedule (this change is pending Board of Education approval). We will be giving our youngest learners even greater learning opportunities. The staff of the Early Childhood Center will be developing a daily schedule that will include more time to elaborate on skills, individualize instruction, provide purposeful exploration and play, and meets the needs of our students in an unhurried setting. We are so grateful for the successes of our first year and look forward to meeting the newest members of our Early Childhood Center in a few short months.