It’s hard to believe the last class to have a complete and normal early education experience (i.e. pre-K and kindergarten) is now in third grade. For our current second grade, first grade, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students, some or all of their educational experience has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For almost two years, online learning, quarantining and school closures have become a normal part of their school experience.
While adults can remember life before the pandemic, many of our youngest learners have no memories of this time. Not only are children struggling with not having a typical academic experience, many are not having normal day-to-day life experiences outside of school. Parents are now working from home, families are going through periods of quarantining, major events are being canceled and our world has dramatically changed.
With all this in mind, children’s earliest educational years are even more critical for developing skills in this disruptive season. Many children have never been separated from their parents to be cared for by another adult, been on a playdate or even been in a crowd of people. While these activities are still happening, the extent to which they occur has undoubtedly shifted. At The Oaks Academy, we see the effects, especially on our youngest learners. We know these early years are critical to a child’s education, and our incoming students have needed extra support while transitioning into school.
Unfortunately, a student who doesn’t learn how to read by fourth grade will likely never fully catch up to their peers. This is because children’s brains are rapidly developing in the early years of life. According to the CDC, “preschool-aged children experience profound biological brain development and achieve 90% of their adult brain volume by age six. This physiological growth allows children to develop functional skills related to information processing, comprehension, language, emotional regulation and motor skills. Experiences during early childhood affect the structural development of the brain and the neurobiological pathways that determine a child’s functional development.”
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With this knowledge, we understand that high-quality pre-K is imperative to help mitigate the effects of adverse events in early childhood. At The Oaks, we track resiliency factors, which are items that might adversely affect early child development. All our students now have a significant resilience factor – living through a pandemic.
We are still learning the full impact of this period of change, but we do know that relationships are essential to children’s development. Through play and interaction with other children, our pre-K students form the building blocks needed to develop skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. In these early years, they are also developing what we refer to as habits. These habits, including attention, respect and responsibility, prepare our students in all their relationships, including with teachers, peers and parents.
High-quality pre-K programs are more important than ever, and we knew we needed to be able to serve more young learners at The Oaks. That’s why we recently opened our new pre-kindergarten education center at our Martindale-Brightwood campus. We have renovated the former John Hope School 26 not only to make room for more pre-K students, but to ensure they have space dedicated to their specific needs.
If children in our community are going to succeed in a post-pandemic world, they need to develop social, emotional and academic skills, along with a strong foundation for their future education. Visit The Oaks website to learn more.