SHERIDAN —The nonprofit organization Wyoming Kids First will host an evening training in Sheridan on Wednesday, Oct. 14, about the basics of early childhood education. The event is part of Sheridan County School District 2’s Next Level program and aims to improve kindergarten readiness.
Becca Steinhoff, executive director of the Casper-based nonprofit, works with communities around the state to assess and improve their early childhood education resources.
“Kids are learning wherever they are,” Steinhoff said, “and they are either maximizing that opportunity or they’re having less of an opportunity.”
The early childhood expert said it’s critical that parents, teachers and childcare providers take an active role in kids’ development.
“Even just taking a little moment while they’re eating a snack or playing outside to really enhance what’s happening in a child’s brain,” Steinhoff said, can make a difference.
This could be as simple as asking kids to predict which animals they will see on an afternoon walk or collecting leaves for an art project, Steinhoff said. These tasks require kids to exercise, use logic and think creatively.
Everyday activities like a walk outdoors are also key times to teach kids things like how to share or wait for their turn, according to Amanda Dube, pre-school coordinator at Child Development Center, which provides education services in Sheridan and Johnson counties.
“They’re probably the No. 1 predictor of success,” Dube said, of social skills. Dube is a member of the early childhood committee for Next Level, SCSD2’s program to boost high school graduation rates, and plans to attend the Wednesday evening training.
Childcare providers will make up the bulk of the audience, organizers expect, but the session is open to the public. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the district administrative building at 201 N. Connor St.
The training includes an introduction to the Next Level program and sessions to identify stakeholders that impact young kids’ development — like pediatricians, the local library and the YMCA. Attendees will set goals for improvement in early childhood education in Sheridan.
Scott Stults, director of elementary education at SCSD2, said childcare providers in the area have asked to work more closely with the district to help prepare kids for school.
“Prior to them getting to us as 5-year-olds, they’ve said, ‘Are there things that we can do to make this transition easier?’” Stults said.
Wyoming Kids First has organized similar trainings for Sheridan County School District 1 as part of an early childhood grant it received from the state in the spring.