by Meg Massey
for the Orcas Community Resource Center
Next year’s kindergartners learned again on May 16 just how treasured they are by our community. To celebrate the children who are ready and raring to step up to kindergarten, their parents or grandparents, teachers, mentors and the staffs of both the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and Orcas Community Resource Center (OCRC) joined the fledging celebrities on May 16 in Episcopal Parish Hall for the annual Kindergarten Transition Banquet.
The occasion aims to applaud the efforts of educators too. Invited to come early, the kids’ current and future mentors who spend action-packed days with 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds are an animated group and arrived eager to engage, with children and families. But first, they took it easy over a peaceful dinner, prepared by Wild Island restaurant, in the company of their colleagues from the Orcas Public Library, Children’s House, Kaleidoscope Preschool, the Christian School and the Orcas Island Public School.
And then full of energy, excited preschoolers burst in on the scene towing their parents. Mothers, fathers and kids sat down to eat together and to connect, often for the first time, with children from other preschools and their parents; people with whom they are likely to share many milestones in the coming years. Gung-ho to jump-start the post-dinner adventures, the children made short order of Wild Island’s truly wonderful meal and scrambled to the activity tables.
Wielding scissors, children cut along zigzag lines or made up their own pattern to follow. Proudly writing their names on erasable white boards, young scholars also manipulated, with artistic flair, large, brightly colored paper clips into patterns of their own design. In a cozy nook, students listened to a story and could apply for a library card. In another spot, the kindergarten teacher offered her future pupils inspiration with pencils and blank journals, encouraging them to start writing their own books. Preschoolers approached these reading, writing, math and fine motor skills challenges with hesitant or resolute expressions. Although others, smiling, clearly anticipated only fun. But when next year’s kindergarteners discovered that the activities were both entertaining and achievable, they turned faces, full of accomplishment, up to their parents.
Dashing outside, they showed off their skills with jump ropes and bean bags. And after they’d investigated all the activities, each child was helped into a brand new backpack full of tools and toys, much like those they’d used in the evening’s endeavors.
Twenty-eight kindergarten-bound kids received not only backpacks but, most importantly, the full attention of their families and teachers while 29 of their siblings played and dined at Kaleidoscope or Children’s House. As they relaxed over dessert, parents and children made plans to unload the new backpack and play together.
In support of the parent-child relationship, this event was brought to soon-to-be-kindergartners and their families by OCRC, Orcas Public Schools, ECEAP and the generous local donor who sponsors the annual Kindergarten Transition Program.