6 Component Areas
EDUCATION AND SCHOOL READINESS
The AHS preschool program provides a solid preparation for young children entering the school system. The first day of kindergarten can be stressful for both children and parents, and it is necessary for everyone to be prepared for this next step.
Aboriginal Head Start staff are trained in helping families with this transition, and regularly go out of their way to facilitate early meetings and visits with kindergarten teachers in their classrooms. This preparation makes a difference for not only the students, but also their parents. Many kindergarten teachers speak strongly on the benefits of the AHS program, such as Amber Knezacek and Rose Monsees in the Terrace School District, who work with children and families from Kermode AHS.
“The children coming in to school having participated in the Head Start program really have a respect and understanding of what school is. They understand who the teacher is, how to sit, and they know there’s a schedule and expectations, and generally they’re looking forward to school because they’ve had a good experience at preschool… I also think it’s been a good experience for parents. They come in ready to interact with the teacher more and ready to interact with the children more… I really credit the Head Start people for developing those good relationships with families, and saying that your involvement with the school is really important and that you’re just as important a teacher as the teacher.” – Amber Knezacek: Kindergarten teacher, Terrace
Adept at refining their best practices, Aboriginal Head Start programs show leadership in the area of school readiness. For instance, Comox Valley Head Start stays closely connected to the local School District and enjoy representation on the School District’s Aboriginal Education Council. Comox Valley AHS Program Coordinator, Audrey Waite, described how the preschool hosts yearly Kindergarten Transition Meetings with graduating students, parents, Kindergarten Teachers, Administrators and Aboriginal Education personnel, and at their graduation ceremony, the children are welcomed into the mainstream school system by the Aboriginal Education Administrator.
“It’s important to have my kids here because it’s a ‘head start’ before they go to kindergarten and elementary school.” – Scott Nelson: Parent & Bus Driver, Eagle’s Nest & Singing Frog AHS
Parents in all the AHS preschools seem more than pleased with the measures of school readiness the program provides their children. Some have even expressed surprise that the preparation was so thorough, noting that their children have gained precious social skills they know are essential to success in their future education. The circle in which the children sit and learn lesson is thought to be critical in their development of the concepts of sharing, cooperating, speaking, and listening.Elder, Jean Walker, at Power of Friendship AHS>“By having the circle here, they learn to sit quietly in the circle and listen.
“I didn’t know he was going to receive such preparation for school. He was learning habits like sitting still at a table, a big challenge for a 3 or 4 year old, yet here he was, and wanting to draw and colour and get more involved. He’d want to show me what they did at school. Now Luke’s an A student and I think that has a lot to do with Aboriginal Head Start, because of that early training that he had and to discipline himself in a classroom.” – Roxanne Gray: Parent, Eagle’s Nest AHS
The goal of the AHS program is to engage young children in the possibility of learning so that they carry forth the enthusiasm, self-esteem and initiative to learn in the future. By involving the parents at this early stage, they are more able to support and encourage their children in their ongoing education to ensure lifelong learning for the entire family.
“I think that helped, them learning so much before they got to school. My nephew that went to Head Start… he picked up everything up so fast and he wanted to learn, because they were teaching him to learn… he’s been a Principal’s List student ever since he left preschool.” – Lorraine Westrand: Former Parent, Power of Friendship AHS