Alta has offered a junior kindergarten program for those students who are kindergarten-age but have birthdays that fall in the summer months for the past five years. The program has been held in the mornings only. This year the program will run the entire school day. The students will benefit greatly with the increased instruction being made available.
Teacher Lisa Tokheim stressed that although the students look like they are playing all day, they are learning a great deal.
One of the most important learning experiences for the young students each year is learning to get along with others.
"We tell the kids, 'We're a team. We all work together and we're all friends.' This prepares them to be leaders when they get into kindergarten; they will be ready to help the other students,"the teacher said.
A requirement to be a part of the junior kindergarten program is that each student turn 5 by the deadline of Sept. 15. Having the program gives parents of the younger kindergarten-age students the option of placing their child in the school setting but in a less structured program for one more year of maturity to occur.
"We don't want to set them up to fail. We want them to enjoy school," said the JK teacher, adding that this program helps in that area.
The students in the JK program have a structured morning which includes a condensed version of what the kindergarteners do. A great deal of communication between Tokheim and the kindergarten teachers makes sure that the lessons aren't being overlapped, which would essentially cause some boredom once they get into the kindergarten classroom.
"We don't use text books here and we're not big on worksheets." Progress can be clearly seen, however, through their actions.
There are many different activities for the students to take part in throughout the day. Because their attention spans are short, they may go to many throughout the specified activity time. Making decisions is part of their learning. The students may choose to work at areas including the computer, listening center, blocks and building, dolls, transportation toys, water table, play house/store area, art center, puppet area. The activities allow the students to also fine tune their fine and large motor skills.
The students have show and tell like in kindergarten and with the extended program, can now participate in the "specials" such as physical education, music and the all-school track and field day. They also now eat lunch with the older students and can take part in the after-school program if they wish.
"Our motto here is, 'I can try,'" Tokheim said. And they are so proud when they succeed.