Aleesha Hamness’ 3-year-old son, Tabor, isn’t excited about just anything. He’s excited about everything.
“I’ll do that! I’ll do that! I’ll do that!” he squealed as a teacher ran through a list of activities at Daybreak Primary School on Wednesday. Number puzzles? Sounds great. Clay? The best. Blocks? Heck yeah.
This level of enthusiasm is exactly what Hamness was hoping to see when she brought her son to Let’s Play and Learn Together, a free preschool program hosted by Battle Ground Public Schools.
“We wanted to get him socializing,” Hamness said of her only child, as he smashed a piece of green clay with his fists. “We figured this would be a great option.”
The school district will host daily preschool sessions for families with children age 5 or younger at primary school campuses across the district. No registration is required, and parents can drop in at any point through the school year.
The short sessions feature all the usual trappings of preschool — singing, counting and plenty of focused playing — but in a bite-sized package of an hour and a half.
The goal is to see more students coming into kindergarten prepared for life in the classroom, said Mike Michaud, director of instructional leadership for primary schools. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, about 56.2 percent of students entered kindergarten in September 2018 meeting all state-assigned markers of kindergarten readiness.
“We have rigorous standards for reading and writing,” Michaud said.
But when students are coming in with a variety of preschool experiences — or no preschool experiences at all — it can be tough to know exactly how ready they are for the social and academic pressures of the classroom.
“We get a mixed bag of the experiences kids have,” Michaud said. “This is an opportunity to level the playing field.”
Cathy Feldman, a New Jersey-based literacy consultant, is helping the district develop the preschool curriculum. She was on hand Wednesday to help oversee the classroom, and step into the role of teacher herself, reading books and showing off toys and games.
Feldman said this isn’t just an opportunity for students but also for their parents to learn tips on how to have meaningful conversations with their children about numbers, colors and letters. While reading a book, she encouraged the young children to talk to their parents or guardians about what they were seeing in the illustrations.
“What we’re trying to do is model language, ways to interact and empower children as thinkers,” she said.