BURGIN — Look out toddlers! Burgin Independent Schools hopes to start molding your mind even before you’re ready for pre-school.
The school district is one of 10 in Kentucky that was recently awarded a $10,000 grant to establish a Toyota bornlearning Academy at Burgin Elementary that is designed to give kids from ages 0-3 a head start on their education experience.
“This is a seed grant to work with parents and children that are pre-preschool age, to help them prepare for preschool,” Burgin Superintendent Dick Webb said. “Research has shown that 0-3 students develop a large percentage of their learning characteristics during that time. It’s difficult to change things that they have already developed.”
The grant will be administered through the school system’s family resource center, whose personnel will identify parents and other caregivers with toddler-aged children who might need assistance in laying the groundwork for better learning in the school years ahead, Webb said.
Resource center director Sharon Perkins said the free program will begin in late November. The group will meet once a month in a school setting for seven months. The meetings will be held in the evening and feature dinner and other “attendance incentives” such as raffles and door prizes that are provided for by the grant, she said.
While the focus will be on parents and young children in the Burgin school district, Perkins said the program will be open to those who attend Mercer County schools.
“I’d really like to see 20 to 25 families participate but I’ll be delighted to get eight families,” she said.
The idea of bornlearning is to help parents of very young children identify and take advantage of learning situations that present themselves in everyday life. The earlier a child learns how to learn, the better prepared she or he will be to absorb instruction in the more structured environment of a classroom.
As an example, Perkins said a trip to the grocery store might include parent-child discussions about colors, shapes and even nutrition.
“It doesn’t take a lot,” she said. “Involving the child and being very verbal in everyday situations can help give them a leg up.”
Though bornlearning isn’t restricted to low-income families, Perkins said those families are often the most in need of help because many of the parents didn’t do well in school themselves.
“A lot of people who were unsuccessful in school tend to replicate that in their own families,” she said.
Perkins and Webb both expressed hope that the program will make a difference in a relatively short time, and the school will establish a permanent early childhood development program that will continue after the grant’s funding is exhausted.
“We’ve known this for years and it’s something we need help with,” Webb said. “I think it’s exactly the right direction to go. I¿think this grant has some teeth to it, and we’ll start to see a payoff in three to four years.”
Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky provided $115,000 to United Way of Kentucky to establish the academies. Along with Burgin, the following schools received a bornlearning grant: Hiseville Elementary in Glasgow; Crabbe Elementary in Ashland; May Valley Elementary in Prestonsburg; Grandview Elementary in Bellevue; East Calloway Elementary in Murray; H.W. Wilkey Elementary in Leitchfield; Berea Elementary in Berea; Farley Elementary in Paducah; and Boston Elementary in New Haven.