Rising kindergartners get taste of what school's like
PITTSFIELD -- Rising kindergarteners from around the county got the chance to experience the classroom firsthand Saturday.
The Berkshire Museum's "Welcome to Kindergarten" event, presented in partnership with Pittsfield's Transition Team, turned several exhibition rooms into classrooms. The goal, organizers said, was to help youngsters feel comfortable with entering kindergarten this fall.
Hands-on activities, including blocks and puppets, were provided for children -- and even the adults.
"They're things you can expect to see in the classroom, and can also do at home," said Craig Langlois, education and public program manager with the museum. He and other organizers encouraged adults to reproduce activities to aid with their children's development.
Saturday's event stems from the WeeMuse initiative, one component of educational programming at the museum. Through the program, the museum has published "In Kindergarten," a new book to help families prepare for the transition. The book will be distributed to every child registered to enter kindergarten in Berkshire County starting this year.
Benches, stairs and other items were labeled throughout several rooms in the museum to help children associate words with the physical objects. A video produced by the museum led children through one kindergartener's typical day, and every child received a free tear-off, word-of-the-day calendar.
Sue Doucette, early childhood coordinator with Pittsfield Public Schools, said she was on hand to answer adults' general questions about the upcoming school year.
Jesseca Williamson, early childhood education specialist with the museum, showed children how to use hands-on activities to aid in development.
"All these important skills -- cognitive, social, fine motor -- are all about play," she said.
Parents can continue practicing these skills with their children this summer through easy activities, she said. She suggested bringing buckets, shovels and toy boats to the beach -- sand and water provide sensory input, she explained, and children benefit from using their hands to build something.
Melissa Higgins, of Great Barrington, and her son Mark, 5, spent a good part of their time experimenting with magnets.
"I'm so happy they did this," she said. "He's so excited for kindergarten."
But the biggest attraction Saturday was the ubiquitous yellow school bus, which many students will ride come September.
Aidan Underdown, 5, of Pittsfield, was all smiles as bus driver Randy drove him and other children around the block. His father, Jim, said Aidan was excited to enter Williams Elementary School this fall.
To reach Edward Damon