HEIDELBERG, Germany -- The U.S. Army Garrison Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg communities are bringing the Army Family Covenant to its younger members - all the way down to the pre-kindergartners.

With its new Strong Beginnings program, Army Child, Youth and School Services leaders have prepared a program intended to build a foundation for learning.

"Strong Beginnings program is ... designed to prepare children to be successful in kindergarten," said Aubrey McCaster, facilities director at Mark Twain Village and Patrick Henry Village child development centers in Heidelberg. "To prepare them with the necessary kindergarten etiquette, so to speak, so that they are prepared to learn and grow and be academically successful."

The Strong Beginnings program will be implemented this fall for children entering kindergarten in the 2010 school year. Parents can elect as to whether their children will participate in the program.

"(It) involves mainly building foundations for learning in the children, helping them with language skills, reading, comprehension, mathematics, science if you will, also computer skills, help them become well-rounded," McCaster said.

The curriculum will include instruction from certified CYSS staff who will be trained using Army Family Covenant funds.

"I think for one thing it will help the children prepare to enter school," McCaster said. "We have always had play activities for children. Our motto has always been, 'Children learn through play,' and they do. Except in this case, with Strong Beginnings it's more guided. There is more interaction between the adults and the child in the activities and there is more intentional learning brought in by the staff."

Army CDCs in the States as well as worldwide were losing preschool children to civilian preschool programs or state-run preschool programs, McCaster said, so to counter that trend, the Army came up with this way to help parents prepare their children for school.

To begin with, parents with pre-kindergarten age children will have a meeting with McCaster or the staff members to determine the interest level for them with Strong Beginnings.

"It will be great because I think, finally, the parents will have the feeling that their children are going to learn something in the pre-K program," McCaster said. "They will find out the teachers will be very motivated to help their children learn. And they will be teaching the children - it's not just going to be a play environment anymore."

(Editor's Note: Kristen Marquez works in the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Affairs Office).

Page last updated Thu May 14th, 2009 at 04:07