STUTTGART, Germany -- A new Army-wide pre-kindergarten program promises to teach children more than classroom rules and good behavior. It's called Strong Beginnings, and has a curriculum that includes science and technology, literature and math.

"It's almost the same as a regular kindergarten classroom," said Hyacinth Smith, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Kelley Child Development Center director. "Strong Beginnings will provide three hours of focused learning activities that will prepare children for kindergarten."

The new program, set to begin by Sept. 1 at every Army CDC, was designed by the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.

All children who will be four years of age by Sept. 1 are eligible to enroll.

The new curriculum focuses on social, emotional, cognitive and physical development, as well as basic academic subjects. A large part of Strong Beginnings is helping children to become more self-sufficient in a classroom setting, Smith said.

"Parents use the pre-K program to help their children learn social skills, become more independent and have the opportunity to be in group settings," she added.

Strong Beginnings plans to offer just that. When students enter the room, they will sign themselves in to practice writing their name. At lunch and snack time, students will serve themselves.

They will also practice focusing on learning activities that will require more time to complete, such as science projects, Smith added.

Academic subjects include math, science and technology, language and literature, social studies, health and physical development.

"Before, we've always dealt with learning through play, which is great, but that's not what they'll be learning in kindergarten," said Dave Lindman, a Strong Beginnings teacher at the Panzer CDC. "I'm really excited about the stress put on mathematics for this age group."

Strong Beginnings students enrolled in full-day care will also get to participate in the Junior School of Knowledge, Exploration and Skills program once a week. Both full-day and part-day Strong Beginnings programs will include the Start Smart sports program and Character Counts! education.

"When kids have structured information, it gives them some comfort and increases their ability to learn," Lindman added. "I think they're going to be incredibly excited about it."

Strong Beginnings will run for three hours a day Monday through Friday (8:30-11:30 a.m.) on Panzer Kaserne, Kelley and Patch Barracks, and for five hours a day (8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) on Robinson Barracks, due to the location.

Children enrolled in full-day care can participate in Strong Beginnings through "wraparound" care; regular care will be provided during hours outside of the Strong Beginnings hours.

Each Strong Beginnings teacher must have a minimum of an associate's degree in child development to qualify.

Smith expects to have about 10 certified teachers, including full-day care teachers, in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart by Sept. 1.

"This is something that parents have been asking for, for a very long time, and I'm sure they will be happy with the outcome," Smith said.

Page last updated Mon August 10th, 2009 at 05:08