Full-day kindergarten a go for fall, promises Dale Kirby

The province's education minister is promising it's full-steam ahead on full-day kindergarten.
Education Minister Dale Kirby points out some of the amenities in the full-day kindergarten demonstration classroom. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of education is promising it's full-steam ahead on full-day kindergarten in the province — beginning in September.

Dale Kirby took reporters on a tour of a demonstration kindergarten classroom in St. John's on Friday, showing off the various spaces, supplies and decor in a typical school room.

"It's a high priority for government," said Kirby, referring to the province's decision two years ago to move from half-day to full-day kindergarten. 

Dramatic play area to support development of social and language skills through imaginary play. (CBC)

"We consider it to be an investment in students and in the province and we'll be ready for September 2016."

The government is spending over $30 million to start full-day kindergarten.

About 100 classrooms or schools are being renovated or extended to accommodate the new program and 140 teachers are being added to the system.

"A lot of work has been done already. We have invested millions of dollars over the last couple of years in this project," said Kirby.

Kirby was eager to point out all the amenities in the play-based demo classroom.

Typical kindergarten rooms will include a group area for story time and sing-a-longs; math and science area featuring blocks and other toys for counting and sorting; a dramatic play area with puppets and dress-up clothes for imaginary play; an art area, writing area and reading area all featuring toys, books and various child-friendly implements to support learning. 

Blocks, books and toys are featured in the Math and Science area in the demo kindergarten classroom. (CBC)

The idea is to create a classroom where the environment is like another teacher.

"If you look at the research on full-day kindergarten, we know there are positive academic outcomes," said Kirby.

"There are great outcomes when it comes to writing ability, when it comes to behaviour and socialization. So, a lot of pluses from this investment."

4 demonstration classrooms across province

There are four demonstration kindergarten classrooms across the province — in St. John's, central, western and Labrador.

Kirby said the curriculum "Completely Kindergarten" is already available to teachers and there is professional development ongoing with them.

Kitchen area is shown in a demo kindergarten classroom. Books are sprinkled throughout the room, not just in the reading area. (CBC)

In addition, full-day kindergarten staff is being offered the opportunity to visit one of the demo classrooms.

"Some [teachers] have been in here already and had a look," said Kirby.

"I've spoken to two who've been in here and they're quite impressed with what they see."

"There'll be some growing pains I'm sure, as with any program. But we're very optimistic about where we're headed and we'll be ready for September 2016."