Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
The Army Child and Youth Services’ Strong Beginnings program at the Osage Child Development Center completed its latest adventure with a hike along one of the Weston Bend State Park trails Oct. 23.
Ten pre-kindergarten students, along with their teachers Mary Erickson and Lesia Watson, and parent Kristal Thomas, followed the Harpst Trail, collecting pieces of nature along the way.
“The purpose of the hike was to provide a real-world connection for the children,” said Erickson, Strong Beginnings lead teacher. “It is a wonderful opportunity to get them outside.”
The field trip also coincided with the current study of trees in the classroom.
“We use the Creative Curriculum resource,” Erickson said. “Each Creative Curriculum study is four to six weeks in length and focuses on individualized instruction, provides meaningful learning experiences, addresses essential objectives for development and learning.”
Strong Beginnings, designed for 4- to 5-year-old children, is a program available at every Army garrison, according to U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The Fort Leavenworth program began in 2010.
“The Army Strong Beginnings Pre-K is a program designed to prepare children to be successful to enter school,” according to the U.S. Army FMWR website. “Curriculum focuses on the social, emotional, and physical development of children; equips them with basic academics and kindergarten classroom etiquette skills to enhance school readiness.”
The hike was the second field trip the Osage CDC program has been on this year, the first being a bus tour of Fort Leavenworth. The class also touches on writing, math, science, social studies and reading, as well as the basics like following directions, learning numbers, colors and shapes.
Thomas said she’s glad her daughter, 5-year-old Annalise, is in the program, and thinks she’ll be well-prepared for kindergarten.
“She’s really opened up socially, which was a concern for us because she’s an only kid, so it has been a big improvement in just the month and a half that she’s been in school so far,” Thomas said. “She’s figured out how to play together, not just side by side, and be a little bit more assertive, whereas before she was a little bit more passive. If somebody came up and played somewhere that she was, she would walk away, but not now. She’s really gotten it this year.”
Thomas said she’s glad the classes are smaller, too.
“They all look out for each other. They are all-inclusive,” Thomas said. “It is cool to see them exploring things together.
“The unique thing about being here at Leavenworth, too, is, because of (the Command and General Staff College) and the other schools, you have a lot of international students that come and their kids attend the schools, so getting to expose her to as many different kids as possible is really important to us,” she said.
Thomas said she was also happy with the faculty.
“I think the kids are so well behaved because they genuinely like and respect their teachers and because the teachers genuinely like and respect their students as well,” Thomas said. “Kids know.”
The Strong Beginnings program meets 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program is open to children of active-duty military and Department of the Army civilians living on and off post. For more information or to sign up, visit the Fort Leavenworth CYS website at https://leavenworth.armymwr.com/programs/cys-services or stop by Parent Central at the Resiliency Center, 600 Thomas Ave.