Camp gives kids glimpse into kindergarten

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Incoming Ireland Elementary School kindergartners Leo Dupps, left, and Griffin Gehlhausen, make patterns with candies, while teacher Tara Britton helps Hudson Bauer write his name on his candy bag during the Cruising into Kindergarten camp at Ireland Elementary School on Tuesday. This is the second year the school has offered the camp to help incoming students adjust to before the school year starts.


IRELAND — The snap of popping bubble wrap filled one of the kindergarten classrooms at Ireland Elementary School Tuesday afternoon as a handful of incoming kindergartners popped the plastic bubbles over paint stripes to create rainbows.

The 5-year-olds were at school for Cruising into Kindergarten, a weeklong camp that runs through Thursday. Teachers Tara Britton, Sara Olinger and Kathy Wagner are offering the program to help their students get accustomed to the classroom and the school ahead of the first day of class on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

Stacey Crawford also teaches kindergarten at Ireland Elementary.

The teachers first offered the camp last year, and while it doesn’t offer a big boost academically, they agreed they can see a difference socially.

“It was primarily for the anxiety aspect,” Wagner said.

Wagner has been teaching kindergarten for 24 years and said that often, her students are nervous on the first day of school. They don’t know their teacher, the building is unfamiliar and they may not know any of their classmates. The optional camp aims to help with all three.

Unlike the school day, camp is half a day, but it is jampacked with activities like the ones that happen every day in kindergarten: play and craft time to teach fine motor skills, dancing along to educational videos like “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and learning to write their names. Camp also gets the students acclimated to their teachers and classmates, the classrooms and the school building.

“We’re just basically having fun at the same time as introducing them to school,” Wagner said.

Ireland Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kathy Wagner, right, leads incoming kindergartners to her classroom for the Cruising into Kindergarten camp at Ireland Elementary School on Tuesday. The camp is also run by two other Ireland Elementary School kindergarten teachers, Tara Britton and Sara Olinger.

One of the lessons Tuesday focused on patterns. The students used Skittles to continue patterns of colored dots printed on strips of paper. The paper started a pattern — such as yellow, green, red, yellow — then challenged the student to continue it with Skittles.

“What comes after red?” Wagner asked Brady Campbell, 5, as she helped him figure out the pattern.

“I know!” Brady said excitedly when he got it. “Yellow.”

In another activity, the students sorted plastic shapes. First, they focused on color. Then, they dumped the shapes back out and sorted according to shape. Finally, they sorted by size. Some of the shapes got placed in the wrong pile during the size exercise.

“It’s OK if we make a mistake,” Olinger said as the students handed her the large rectangles that were placed in the bag for small shapes. “We’re just having fun and learning what we’re going to do [in school].”

This year, 35 of the 90 incoming kindergartners enrolled in the camp, almost double last year’s enrollment, Wagner said, and the teachers plan to offer the program again next year.

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