The Growing Tree Program delivered at MercyCare’s Warriapendi Child and Parent Centre and funded by the Department of Education is doing just that, working to prepare children for a life of learning from an early age.
The centre, which is co-located at Warriapendi Primary School in Balga, provides families of young children in the area with support and a connection to their community.
Families with children enrolled for kindergarten in the following year are invited to take part in the Growing Tree.
The program runs in the third and fourth school terms with a catch-up also held in the summer school holidays ahead of the new school year.
Weekly sessions based on the Early Years Framework and Curriculum give the three and four-year-old children the chance to familiarise themselves with a classroom environment, socialise and work on their developmental skills. Through fun routines and activities, the children get opportunities to socialise and to practice their fine motor skills. They learn to start to recognise their written name, they grow to understand the idea of sitting on a mat and they get used to following routines such as putting away their backpacks.
The Growing Tree program is just as much about parents as it is the children.
While getting an introduction to their little one’s future school, families are provided support and information about children’s physical health and wellbeing, social and emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills.
With a Dental Unit, Child Health Nurse and Speech Pathologist also co-located at the school, the program incorporates sessions that provide parents with information on each of these areas and others that help support them to understand their important role as their children’s first teachers.
These interactions not only establish positive relationships between families and the education system but provide opportunities for support and early intervention for any issues parents may be dealing with.
In 2020, all 40 of the students who had been enrolled for kindergarten in the following year took part in the program.
The kindergarten teachers at Warriapendi Primary School were able to see the impact of the program from the first day of the school year in 2021.
The school’s Principal Natasha Doyle said the teachers had found the children were far more settled than in previous years and ready for day one of Kindy.
“They are able to separate from their parents easier, there is less crying and the children have those learning skills to sit and listen,” she said.
“It’s just a much more settled environment, which makes learning smoother.”