Recently I had the opportunity to take a group from Inside Education to visit our fabulous Transitional Kindergarten program at Opal Cliffs School. Inside Education is program through the Santa Cruz County Office of Education designed to better acquaint community members with the programs and services of public education in Santa Cruz County.
Our guests come from backgrounds that vary greatly and throughout our discussion we had opportunities to discuss the importance of providing every child with a wonderful early childhood education program based on nurturing and exploration.
We are very fortunate in Soquel School District to have five exceptional educators, Mark Swindell, Michelle McBride, Callie O’Neill, Kay Johnson and Karen Hoffseth, who have created a learning environment that allows our young learners (4-5 year olds) to be safe and excited to come to school each day. The group from Inside Education observed during their hour long visit our children being actively engaged in multi task learning opportunities that required rotations and at times, self- directed instruction. As an educator for 40 years, I was most impressed to see that these young children, having been in school for only 11 days, were able to complete three rotations and actively participate in each requirement with enthusiasm and self-motivation. All of these children demonstrated a confidence that comes from being safe and nurtured in their classroom.
Transitional Kindergarten is the ideal setting for children who are not ready to attend a regular formal kindergarten classroom. Today’s kindergarten class requires students to follow specific routines throughout the school day and be ready academically to learn specific kindergarten standards. Children having the chance to explore environments that will increase their readiness skills in preparing them for a more routine approach in instruction is the key to our successful Transitional Kindergarten program. Opal Cliffs School was designed specifically for the age group that attends this program. The classroom organization and amenities enables group activities to occur seamlessly.
Solution Circle Teaches Collaboration
The District also has incorporated a wonderful program, Solutions Circle, that embraces the concept of students being able to resolve their disagreements collaboratively. The Solutions Circle program has been most successful with our kindergarten students.
We are extremely pleased that the skills these students are acquiring in solving their disagreements on the playground build a more collaborative mindset during classroom activities.
Imagine providing an environment where 4 and 5 year olds become effective negotiators in trying to communicate collaboratively when they have two different points of view. Our children are definitely building a sense of community amongst themselves.
Exciting Start to 2015-2016 School Year
Soquel School District’s 2015-16 school year has begun with excitement and student engagement at all of our school sites. We are very fortunate to have a school community that supports the outstanding instruction that is taking place at each and every one of our schools. Soquel School District has made a significant investment to incorporate technology at each and every one of our grade levels.
The infusion of hundreds of electronic devices is enabling our students to explore curriculum far beyond the classroom. I recently had a conversation with one of our most successful teachers and he informed me that his students who have had the opportunity to work with a one on one device has completely changed the curriculum options for these students. He was amazed at the extended learning that is occurring in his classroom with his student’s abilities to work with this device.
It is without question that throughout this school year our students are going to explore and engage in new learning environments through the investments of technology for all students in our district. I am excited to be able to visit classrooms where our dynamic educators are incorporating their latest training in the areas of 21st Century instruction.
I am truly going to enjoy my last year as Superintendent in the Soquel School District. I will be visiting classrooms often and participating in the exciting learning that is taking place in our District.