There’s a dance party happening in Ina Rochell’s classroom.
A dozen children dance on a rainbow-colored rug, waving their arms in the air and following the instructions to “make a pattern” by moving their arms and legs at the same time – with varied success.
“Here’s my favorite part – ski jumps!” Rochell tells the class, and she starts jumping from side to side, a slalom skier without the snow, and the children follow her lead.
Rochell’s classroom at Mapleton Early Childhood Center is one of 10 across Boulder Valley School District this summer where more than 160 soon-to-be kindergartners are learning the foundations of reading, math, executive functioning and social-emotional skills with the goal of helping them thrive at school this fall.
The Kinder Bridge program provides six weeks of learning and play for children to receive extra support in transitioning between preschool and kindergarten and is new this year, funded by a more than $150,000 donation from the district’s foundation, Impact on Education.
An earlier program provided similar supports to students living in housing through Boulder Housing Partners, but this year Kinder Bridge has more than tripled in the number of students enrolled.
“We felt like there were so many kids outside of that (program) that needed support, so even pre-pandemic we knew there was a need,” said Allison Billings, executive director of Impact on Education.
Kinder Bridge is serving students across the district, including east Boulder County and Broomfield, Billings said.
Students were selected for the program because they might need some additional support in starting school, said Robbyn Fernandez, assistant superintendent of school leadership at BVSD. District leaders reached out to families impacted by the Marshall fire, who found housing through local housing authorities and who have other factors that might mean their children are less prepared for kindergarten.
In addition to a half-day of learning, Kinder Bridge provides transportation and breakfast for students.
Approximately 10% of these students haven’t had any previous experience with school, whereas others have attended BVSD preschool, said Nichole Villa, early childhood education instructional specialist.
“We’re trying to give them a little more independence than they would have in preschool and we try to keep in mind that there are some students who have never had preschool and some who have,” she said.
In addition to learning fine motor skills like handwriting, students are working on things like transitioning from eating a meal to being in the classroom and learning how to sit in a circle as a teacher reads a book.
The program is also intentionally set up to use the same learning tools that students used in preschool and will use in kindergarten, Fernandez said.
“We’ve been really intentional in this program and in summer learning in general to make sure we’re directly aligned so we can maximize effectiveness,” she said.
The school district and foundation will evaluate how the program does this year with the goal of continuing it in coming summers, Billings said.
“The cool part is we will be able to see how these kids who participated in summer learning fair in kindergarten and our expectation and our hope is that it’ll prove to be valuable,” she said.