Being ready for kindergarten can make all the difference in a child's introduction to formal education. When families work together to prepare a child for school, everybody knows more about what to expect and what they can do to support their child. The Countdown to Kindergarten exhibit at Boston Children's Museum will provide a model classroom environment for young children and parents to explore together.
"Boston Children's Museum has provided leadership in early childhood education for over 35 years," said Jeri Robinson, the Museum's vice president of family learning and early childhood programs. "With the Countdown to Kindergarten exhibit, the Museum intends to engage both parents and children together in school readiness."
Classroom visits for families and teachers in training are a key part of the school readiness strategy. But busy schedules and limited resources make it difficult for many to spend the time they need in early childhood settings. This 1,500 square foot model classroom will serve the general public as a place to play and learn during regular Museum hours, providing an opportunity to become familiar with early education and to learn how to support and advocate for young learners. At the same time, the exhibit will serve as a training center for teachers, a place to share insights and discuss how best to serve students from the first days of their school careers.
The Countdown to Kindergarten Exhibit is one aspect of Boston's citywide Thrive in Five initiative, a 10-year effort that aligns families, educators, health care and human service providers, the private sector, and city departments – working in collaboration with state agencies – to ensure that all children will be ready for sustained school success.
"Thrive in 5 is thrilled to partner with BCM and many others in promoting school readiness through this exhibit," said John Lippett, executive director of Thrive in 5. "It represents the collaborative, integrative approach that is essential to helping children and families be ready for sustained school success, smoothing the transition to school, and helping teachers and schools be ready for the children and families."
Each area of the exhibit will offer engaging activities and opportunities for parents and children to learn together. For training workshops and professional development, educators will find all the materials and environments suggested by best practices in the field today. For the adult companions of young children, activities will be interpreted in ways that make visible the incredible academic, social, and physical growth they can expect to see during the kindergarten years.
BCM's Countdown to Kindergarten Exhibit will provide programs for Boston families and educators in conjunction with the citywide Thrive in Five partners such as Mayor's Office, United Way, BPS, ABCD Head Start, Early Education for All, and the Community Partnerships Council. Through its Friday night programming, the Museum will host a variety of programs designed specifically to meet the needs of educators and low-income parents and families who may not be familiar with the Museum's offerings. In addition, the exhibit will provide a forum for the community to discuss goals in early childhood education, connect citywide organizations and families, and help to focus efforts to reduce the achievement gap in neutral territory.
"The Countdown to Kindergarten Exhibit is a tremendous example of how to engage parents and guardians in children's learning and development - a key component of ensuring that children enter school ready to learn," said Michael Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley. "Early learning relies on a commitment from the entire community. It is great to see this in action at Boston Children's Museum."
Boston Children's Museum will work with citywide early childhood family engagement initiatives to attract families from neighborhoods that have least participated in previous Countdown programs, playgroups, and other school readiness programs.