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Keno leads to more playtime in school

  • Sue Rysnik's kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School work on a science experiment with M&Ms. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sue Rysnik's kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School work on a science experiment with M&Ms. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sue Rysnik's kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School draw their observations of a science experiment. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Sue Rysnik's kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School work on a science experiment with M&Ms. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Sue Rysnik's kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School work on a science experiment with M&Ms. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sue Rysnik's kindergarten class at Mason Elementary School work on a science experiment with M&Ms. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 10:33AM

Full-day kindergarten in classrooms across the region this fall is allowing for more academics as well as playtime and arts.

Mason and Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative school districts bumped up their half-day kindergarten to full-day this school year in reaction to the state increasing its funding for the students. In the past the state would only pay half of the per pupil contribution for kindergarten students that it would make for other public elementary school students.

The measure is meant to be paid for in-part with proceeds from the lottery game KENO, which was introduced around bars and restaurants across the state last year.

At the start of the month, the New Hampshire Department of Education announced that municipalities across the state would be receiving an additional $11 million in additional aid to pay for kindergarten students, $1,100 more per student for all full-day programs than last year.

About $2.1 million of that $11 million is from KENO proceeds, with the remainder being taken from the general fund.

State officials along with local teachers and parents agree, however, that full-time kindergarten should be heavy on the playtime. In June, Governor Chris Sununu signed into law a bill requiring kindergarten be “play based,” and lessons should be structured to include “movement, expression, exploration, socialization, and music.” The bill took effect in mid-August, before the start of this school year.

Susan Rysnik, who teaches kindergarten at Mason Elementary School, said that’s not a problem in her classroom. Rysnik was overhauling her curriculum this summer, anyway, as the Mason Elementary School joined the ranks of schools in New Hampshire adding a full-day kindergarten program this year.

In her classroom recently students crowded around a plate filled with M&Ms and water and watched the colors leach from the candy-coated M&Ms and swirl into a rainbow of colors in the water.

It is both a science experiment and an art exercise for the children. They learn about water solubility, make guesses about what will happen when the M&Ms are submerged and then observe the results, which are afterward recorded in a crayon drawing by each student.

The M&Ms experiment/art project lines up with the direction the state would like to see for kindergarten education, Rysnik said. One of the goals she had going into her first full-day program was to provide a better balance of play and learning.

“The main thing was that extra time,” Rysnik said. “Full-day gives us that. There’s more time for academics, but there’s also more time to sing, dance, move and have brain breaks.”

Kelly Iannuzzo of Mason, whose 5-year-old son Benjamin is in kindergarten this year, said when the district proposed full-day kindergarten, she had her reservations.

“I was nervous, for the most part, that they were going to be sitting in a classroom all day, that they would be bored or exhausted,” Iannuzzo said.

But after a month in class, she said those worries have been resolved for her. The play-based approach, with more time for physical education, music and art, has been an overall positive for her, she said.

“They’re playing all the time, but they’re still learning,” Iannuzzo said.

And she sees academic progress, too, as he prepares to read, practicing the words he learns at home and writing his name.

Leah Robinson of Mason, another parent of a kindergartener, said the full-day program provides the best of both worlds for her. She and her husband both work during the day, she said, and full-day kindergarten allows her son to be in a trusted environment during the majority of the day, rather than paying for child care. And because Mason is a small district, with a kindergarten class of ten students.

“I know he’s getting good one-on-one attention and the kids are treated as individuals,” Robinson said.

Mason Elementary Superintendent and Principal, Kristen Kivela, said that it is only a month into the new full-day program and she can already see it is serving students in the way the school had aimed for.

“A lot more play is happnening, and the day isn’t as crammed,” she said. “There are more time for specials like art and music. They have rest time and a much more balanced program.”

The previous half-day program didn’t provide blocks for science or social studies, and while students had access to art and music, the classes were 15 minutes shorter than in their current day, which Kivela said weren’t ideal, especially for students to get involved in bigger projects.

“It’s just more developmentally appropriate all around,” she said

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.