Marbles hosts kick-off event to introduce families to kindergarten

cmyers@newsobserver.comJuly 1, 2014 

It can be tough to predict who will be more nervous on the first day of kindergarten: kids or their parents.

On Thursday, Marbles Kids Museum hosted “Kick-off to Kindergarten” to introduce incoming year-round students and their families to a typical day at a Wake County school.

“This is a chance for families to experience this together,” Hardin Engelhardt, an education and evaluation specialist at Marbles who coordinated the event. “So it’s not as scary and they’re more comfortable with what kindergarten is like.”

According to Engelhardt, 251 rising kindergarteners and 538 family members participated in the free event.

The experience of starting school full-time can vary widely from one child to the next, and the soon-to-be kindergarteners at Marbles ran the gamut from excited to shy. In the line at the mock-cafeteria, some loudly declared their enthusiasm to begin, putting plastic apples and spaghetti on their trays and chattering about which of their friends would be joining them in the classroom.

Others peered around the room as they practiced punching in their lunch number, keeping a tight grip on parents’ hands.

Rylee Marlin didn’t attend preschool, and was nervous about making friends in his new class.

“That’s why we brought him here,” his father Scott said. “It’ him that it’s not going to be as hard as he thinks it’s going to be,” his father Scott said.

Getting into the routine

The night’s events were aimed at familiarizing students with regular events such as morning meetings and PE classes, but also at introducing parents to aspects of the school day that their kids might talk about.

One of those is “ Letterland,” an imaginary place with colorful characters used to teach young children to read. A presentation featuring popular Letterland residents Sammy the Snake and Harry Hatman gave families an idea of how teachers use the literacy tools in class.

Throughout the evening, children could explore other parts of a kindergarten day, such as “Radical Recess” and “school-readiness play” involving patterns and shapes.

“I think it’s great,” Larry Nilles, president of the Wake County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators, said. His daughter Amelia will soon be starting at North Forest Pines Elementary. “We were talking to Amelia on the way over, that when you play, you learn things. Like at preschool they played housekeeping, here we’re playing kindergarten. It’s designed as a way to take the unfamiliarity out of kindergarten.”

Amelia seemed more concerned with another important aspect of attending school: the North Forest Pines mascot, Flappy the Falcon.

“I like having mascots,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to seeing her friends in the hallways.

Parents talked to representatives at a number of booths throughout Marbles sponsored by organizations including the Wake County PTA, WAKE Up and Read and Be Active Kids. Families could also help children sign up for a library card, which they could take outside to check out books at the Bookmobile.

“We’re a big hit,” Ruth van der Grinten, a library assistant who was manning the Bookmobile, said. She said that over 125 children had visited the mobile library during the event.

Get on the bus

Kick-off to Kindergarten is held twice a year, once for year-round students and again in August before the beginning of the traditional school year. Marbles has hosted it for six years, and the kick-off predates the museum itself.

Perhaps the most popular feature the school bus ride, new this year to the event. Many soon-to-be-kindergarteners were excited at the prospect of riding a school bus around the block.

Lenox Barden wasn’t sure how he felt about starting kindergarten at River Bend Elementary when he saw how many other children were at the museum. But after riding the school bus, his mother Fatema said, “He said, ‘Oh, this is fun.’”

And of course, the Kick-off was a way for parents to get used to the idea too.

“It’s as much for parents as it is for kids,” Nilles said. “We’re usually the ones having a hard time.”

Myers 919-829-4696

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