helping kids cross the bridge to kindergarten

Helping Kids Cross The Bridge To Kindergarten

Teaching early skills makes a big difference

Before Rose Callanan left Providence to go to college this past fall, she spent three summers as a volunteer, helping young kids get started on the path that she herself had just traveled. Five days a week for five weeks each summer, Callanan volunteered with a program called Kids Bridge, where she got to pass her experience of school on to kids who had never experienced it themselves.

At Kids Bridge, Callanan worked with “kids who had not gone to any type of day care or school setting at all and who were about to go into kindergarten,” she told Good Turns recently. “What happens a lot is that kids who go into kindergarten have had prior school experience, so they know what to do when they go to school. They know how to sit still and be in line and listen to their teacher and go to the bathroom and do all those things. Whereas some kids who might not have had the chance to do that because maybe their family couldn’t really afford that, or something else, they don’t have those experiences. It seems like things like that might not make a difference, but for a lot of people that can make them behind.”

“The idea was to show these four- and five-year-old kids how to be in a school environment, so that once they get to kindergarten, they can be really used to it,” Callanan said. “A lot of these kids were in families where they weren’t getting read to as much, or there weren’t as many opportunities as other kids had. There’s a lot of stratification in how much [help] kids get from home. The idea was to try to help level the playing field a little bit.”

“I like to see what’s going on with different types of people, and different ways you can help”

Even simple things like standing in line can be a challenge, Callanan reports, for kids who’ve never done it before. “It’s hard for kids that young to even make it through the whole day without being super distracted,” she says.

For Callanan, the experience was an important one in her own educational career. “I think it helped me as much as it was helping other people,” she says. “You learn a lot about different types of people. Everybody is so different, and you can see how they change over five weeks, and how they learn how to act in that environment, and what causes different people to do different things. What works for one person might not work for someone else.”

“It also makes you think a lot about how different things that are going on in an individual’s life can come into a school environment and affect that. It gave me more perspective on what’s going on,” she said. “You just can’t even make any judgment about why someone might be doing well and why someone else might not be, because there’s just so much going on, and it can be environmental factors or personal factors, people could have learning disabilities, there’s just so many different things.”

Working with Kids Bridge wasn’t Callanan’s first volunteer experience, and it won’t be her last, she says. “I definitely like doing volunteer work. At school I haven’t really had time to seek out that type of thing, but I definitely like doing that, and I think I will try to continue in future,” she said. “When I’m home I volunteer at the soup kitchen, because I can do that on a Saturday. I like to see what’s going on with different types of people, and different ways you can help. It’s just different experiences, and it also helps you as a person.”

What a lovely and generous way to close the circle of an educational journey.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ella

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