Building the foundation
STAMFORD — Two-year-old Matthew Contreras channeled the bravery of the Spider-Man printed on his backpack as he darted into the classroom for his first day of preschool.
He immediately found his cubby labeled with his name where he stashed his backpack before head teacher Megan Ruffin eased him into his new morning routine: hand washing, followed by play time with the classroom’s water station.
“We’re just welcoming everyone,” Ruffin said. “It’s always hardest for new kids coming in. We’re excited to see how the school year’s going to start.”
Moments after Contreras’ arrival on Wednesday, Ruffin welcomed 3-year-old Emily Kintzi who initially shied away when greeted. But in no time, the toddler was in her element doing arts and crafts, happily painting away with a stumpy brush covered in blue alongside Contreras who’d moved over to the easel.
These activities are crucial, Ruffin said, to helping young students ease into their first school experience. Sensory play is important, she said, referring to a table topped with lavender-scented play putty that some students were using to make pizza. They later traced their body outlines on paper.
“It works on their awareness of their body,” Ruffin said.
CLC also has “transition days” — two hours of class on Wednesday, three and a half on Thursday and six hours on Friday — to ease the new students into school.
“The transition days are crucial,” said Anna Witkowski, school readiness program director for CLC William Pitt. “It gives a child the opportunity to be exposed. It’s almost like we’re dosing their time here. Some come in and have no issues at all. Some come in and have separation issues.”
Witkowski said parents struggling to say goodbye were able to stay in the CLC office for the first day. The school also met with parents last week to discuss how to make the transition easier for students.
Increased parental engagement is one of the things CLC families can expect to see this year, according to Witkowski. She envisions having parents come into the school’s discovery studios — classrooms where they get hands-on learning — to teach students about woodworking or music. She also sees the school adding more field trips with the help of fundraising, all things to integrate the classrooms and the community.
“This year we’re really focusing on the outside coming in,” Witkowski said. “We’re huge proponents of involving the community.”