What has a school bus that rolls through city, suburb and countryside? What has a play yard with hopscotch and a garden with orange carrots and a yellow watering can? What has cubbies and backpacks? What has bookshelves with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Frog and Toad” and other favorites? What has space for art and dramatic play and circle time? What has a post office and a board to chart the weather?
It’s a kindergarten classroom. Ah, but not just any kindergarten classroom. It’s the new model kindergarten classroom at Boston Children’s Museum. The carrots are artificial, and the only thing rolling about the old school bus chassis is the video footage outside its windows. But the purpose of the Countdown to Kindergarten! exhibit is real: to help prepare young children for school and help parents understand how to support their children’s education.
“From our beginning conversations, before we even knew it would be a classroom, we were looking for a way to talk about school readiness,” said Kacy Hughes, senior project manager for family learning. “[Museum Vice President] Jeri Robinson basically made an off-handed comment in a proposal, and the Boston Foundation saw it and said, ‘What a great idea.’ Then we started brainstorming.”
The classroom anchors one end of the Museum’s early learning corridor, which also includes the popular PlaySpace area for younger children and Peep’s World, an exhibit that uses water and sand tables to encourage science exploration. The model kindergarten classroom will be staffed by Museum employees and retired teachers. The permanent exhibit is available to community groups and for trainings, and the Museum plans to incorporate the exhibit and school readiness into its Friday night programming.
“It’s actually more for the parents,” said Robinson. “The child’s success really is based on what the parent is doing. Parents all need a little jarring. It’s not all about the academics. It’s social and emotional, too. We’re working on having parents understand it’s a partnership.”
The exhibit is part of Boston’s Thrive in 5 initiative, a 10-year citywide effort to ensure that all Boston children enter school ready to succeed. “Thrive in 5 is thrilled to partner with BCM and many others in promoting school readiness through this exhibit,” said John Lippitt, executive director of Thrive in 5, according to a Museum press release. “It represents the collaborative, integrative approach that is essential to helping children and families be ready for sustained school success, smoothing the transition to school, and helping teachers and schools be ready for the children and families.”