Kindergarten students learn while they play

Published 6:49 am Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Students at Woodson Kindergarten Center are playing hopscotch, swinging on the monkey bars, spinning around in circles and pretending to be Superman and zoo animals.

Normal little kid stuff? Not necessarily.

The multi-sensory approach is specifically designed to help the youngsters develop — their bodies and brains.

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“They think it’s all a game, but really what it is doing is helping them get ready to learn,” kindergarten teacher Josh McRae said.

Students participate in the activities — rotating through various stations — for about 20 minutes each day.

It is a part of their Boost-Up and S.M.A.R.T. curriculum.

McRae was one of three teachers who attended a special training a little more than a year ago in S.M.A.R.T. or Simulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training. He said about half of the teachers at Woodson are professionally trained in the methodology.

S.M.A.R.T. helps students develop large and fine muscle skills, visual perception and hand-eye coordination, Woodson principal Jean McDermott said.

Some of these are skills students could have further developed as babies, but didn’t because of a lack of tummy-time, exercise and other things, McRae said.

For instance, S.M.A.R.T. curriculum writers say babies who did not spend enough time on their stomaches — holding their front half up with their arms, and holding their necks up — are weaker, and tend to slouch at their desks, which impairs their readiness to learn.

So, everyday, all kids at Woodson spend time doing this exercise. They call it “The Superman,” because they lay on the ground holding a pose of flying through the air.

The S.M.A.R.T. time helps fill in gaps kids might have, so they are ready to grow and learn, kindergarten teacher Amy Learn said.

Learn and McRae teach separate classes, but their students share “Boost-Up”/S.M.A.R.T. time together.

Woodson does not have physical education teachers, so Boost-Up activities, which include crawling mats, monkey bars and scooters in a gymnasium setting, give the students their daily exercise.

“I notice a huge difference in some of the kids, in their balance and strength,” Learn said of the curriculum.

Boost-Up is a series of rotating obstacle courses aimed to help students build balance and strength.

On Tuesday, students spun around on wheeled-floor seats, pushed themselves on scooters, played hopscotch, walked on mini-stilts, swung through the monkey bars and bounced around on exercise balls.

“My favorite is the monkey bars,” 6-year-old Austin Mattice said.

“Yes, it makes me strong,” he responded to Learn.

Learn and McRae explained that many of the Boost-Up activities work for brain development as well as strength.

“Spinning and some balance acts are good for crossing the left and right brains,” Learn said.

Bouncing around is good for students too, which is kindergartener Jamar Griffith’s favorite activity.


“Because you get to bounce!” he said.

After Boost-Up, the teachers call the students attention for S.M.A.R.T. exercises, to get ready to head back to the classroom.

Students slap their knees across their bodies (exercising the brain), stretch out like Superman and a giraffe and curl up into a tight ball before jumping out of it — in an exercise named popcorn.

They even do seven push-ups. This last ones draws several negative “awww”s from the crowd, before McRae asks if anyone wants to volunteer to demonstrate the technique. Then, too many hands to count shoot up from proud, strong kindergarteners.