This summer, laughter will fill the air at schools across Haliburton County, Kawartha Lakes and Muskoka with the return of School’s Cool.
Last year 93 students participated in the program that both prepares children for kindergarten and gives children who are floundering in kindergarten, a leg up. This year spaces are available for 126 children.
The free six-week program will run from July 11 to August 18, Monday to Thursday, in person at six different schools. This year, School’s Cool is targeting children in JK and SK who have struggled with the learning challenges and disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as children entering kindergarten who may not be ready.
“School’s Cool is a play-based program that increases developmental skills by nearly one year over a six week period,” said SIRCH executive director Gena Robertson. “Research shows that those gains are sustainable, resulting in higher Grade 3 testing scores. Past graduates and their parents still talk about the impact that the School’s Cool program had on their school success.”
Brothers Isaiah, 6, and Asher, 4, were just two of the many students who thoroughly enjoyed the program in 2021 and saw many benefits from it, said their mom Leanne Young.
“I decided to send them because I wanted Asher to have some shorter days to adjust to school rhythms,” she said. “I was nervous how he would adjust to school because he hasn’t left home since COVID. So he didn’t get any preschool/day care exposure. And Isaiah was really struggling with not having school since April, 2021. So I thought the routine would be good for him.”
Not only was the routine good for the boys, but they loved it, said Young.
“They were excited to go every day,” she said, adding there were also other improvements that she noticed. “Isaiah’s behaviour drastically improved. He was really missing socializing with other kids and having a routine of in-school activity. He hated virtual school. Asher’s vocabulary improved and he was so excited to tell me what they did every day.”
Last year, School’s Cool instructors saw vast improvements with many of the children in the program, which focused on social development, routines, and confidence building. Behaviours that were seen in children at the start of the program included difficulty paying attention, aggression, separation anxiety and being shy or withdrawn.
School’s Cool co-ordinator Chris Lynd noted, “I think that the overall success was partly due to being in a group setting with peers, playing, learning and discussing things important to them. They were happy to be able to play and laugh with other kids. Their parents told us how excited they were to be with others and that their ‘happiness’ level had increased.”
This year the program will take place at Stuart Baker Elementary School, Ridgewood Public School, Gravenhurst Public School, Spruce Glen Public School, Alexandra Public School and Queen Victoria Public School.
Over the years the program has received praise from parents of the participants, commenting on how much it helped them or their child prepare for kindergarten.
For Lynd, this is all the evidence she needs to believe in the program and the impact it has on both the children and the community.
“For me, I am very pleased to see the growth of the children over time. It confirms for me that School’s Cool is a great program that introduces children to kindergarten, building confidence, skills and awareness.”
For more information on School’s Cool and how to register, contact SIRCH at 705-457-1742 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Angelica Ingram
SIRCH communications co-ordinator