• Students practice walking in a line during a preschool program at Marshall Elementary
  • Students practice coloring during a preschool program at Marshall Elementary
  • Story time during a preschool program at Marshall Elementary

At Marshall Elementary, preschoolers learn shapes, letters and numbers. They sing the “Hello Song” and practice coloring. It’s not unlike what they’ll do next fall, when they officially start kindergarten. But this isn’t kindergarten. It’s Begindergarten.

Begindergarten, as it’s known at Marshall, will sound familiar to everyone who has heard of Jump Start. Both programs facilitate the transition to school for kids who will soon enter kindergarten. The students are acquainted with their new surroundings, meet future classmates and teachers and work on building the knowledge and skills they’ll need at school. Both programs have formative roles in students’ success at school and in life.

These opportunities are a win for both kids and parents, says Michaela, whose son participates in Marshall’s Begindergarten program, which takes place in the evenings:

“It’s really helpful because it gets him a little more comfortable with the school, so I feel like the first of the year will go a little bit easier when the time does come. It makes it easier on me, too, because he doesn’t cry as much.”

Parents also have a chance to become involved in their school through family activities as part of the evening preschool program, explains Family-Community Resource Coordinator Lindsey Mayer.

“We talked about—last time in our family activity at the end, when the families come back—about what it looks like for a child at this age to hold a pencil and how to practice those things, just to give them those really good basics for as they go through school.

“We want the parents to be in the schools, be a part of their children’s education. So for a program like this to exist, the parents are able to talk to the teachers when their kids are just starting school. We’re hoping that will continue as a cycle as their kids go through school, just being involved in their child’s education.”

Good attendance, a priority at all Vancouver schools, is another practice that begins early.

“We want you to try to get here if you’re registered for it as often as you can, every time if possible, just to really start instilling that attendance is so important because that’s one of those building blocks for academic success.”

King Elementary, under the direction of teacher Kendra Yamamoto, piloted the evening preschool program three years ago. Nine schools are participating this year. Through a partnership with the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools, the program should expand to even more schools in the next few years.

Early learning programs are an investment. Our schools benefit from curious, active learners with strong support at home and good attendance habits. Our community benefits from students who go on to graduate from high school and enter the workforce. It’s an investment that we must make.

Our students and their families are worth it.

Take care,

Image: Steve's signature