In December, Sea Crest School announced our Junior Kindergarten program which will launch next school year. We have been excited and humbled by the responses from community members who have seen the need for a program like this on the coast for many years. We are also reminded just how much has changed in early childhood education by the most common question we receive- “just what is junior kindergarten?” It is a fair question, with transitional kindergarten introduced relatively recently; while the two are similar, there are some distinct differences.
Junior Kindergarten is, most simply, a bridge program for students who will be entering kindergarten the following year. While the state’s transitional kindergarten program only includes students born in a narrow window of dates from September to early December, junior kindergarten is intended for all four-year olds. Both programs are more academically minded and structured than a typical pre-school program, and both are typically offered at sites where students might continue for their primary school years, but while transitional kindergarten was launched as a response for children who were left behind by new age restrictions for kindergarten, junior kindergarten is focused on bridging pre-school to kindergarten in a mindful way for all students.
Research on such programs has shown that participating students enter kindergarten much more prepared socially and academically, but it is more than just the social and academic preparation that is critical for a child’s first real classroom experience. We believe that the most important element of this year is to cultivate in children a sense of wonder that facilitates a love of learning. If students don’t have a positive experience their first year of school, how can we expect them to develop positive associations or excel in later years?
The focus on wonder is central to how Sea Crest has envisioned the Junior Kindergarten program, and a natural extension of our school’s mission of creating curious learners.. Taking direction from the Regio Emilio method, the program seeks to create magical first experiences with school. Our school is particularly poised to meet this need because we offer students early enrichment activities, with dedicated programs in music, drama, engineering and physical education. Even the learning lab styled classroom that is being retrofitted for this purpose is being designed to support inquiry based learning with tactile experiences that support wonder and fine motor skills environment.
We look forward to welcoming our first junior kindergarten class in August when they will join our thriving Sea Crest community in developing creativity, compassion, collaboration and curiosity.