GREEN BAY - Hard to believe, but public schools start class Tuesday, and more young students will be heading off to their first day of pre-K.
Schools in Northeast Wisconsin say they’re taking new and unique approaches to early childhood learning.
Tracey Vandenbusch says her three young children love to learn, and can't wait for school.
“Lizzie's starting kindergarten this fall,” said Vandenbusch, as her children played at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in August.
Vandenbusch says that love of learning prompted her to enroll her daughter in a four-year-old kindergarten program last year.
“It was at a private preschool in the area. What we have going on as a family, with her having two younger brothers, it was just easier for us,” she explained.
This is the sixth year the Green Bay Public Schools will use community based sites for 4K. But this year, it's expanding to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.
“We felt there was a very real need to connect young children to nature again and the partnership with the green bay school district was perfect to do that,” said Mike Reed, the director of the sanctuary.
The program will feature a morning and afternoon session with 20 students each.
Organizers say the nature based 4-K doesn't cost any additional fees, thanks to donations from the Friends of the Wildlife Sanctuary.
It will focus on mostly interactive learning.
“Our whole goal is to have kids outside in the experience for 80 percent of the time we have them here. It's just a more cognitively stimulating environment for them. And there is some research that points to that. Most of the adults I talk to say what four-year-old wants to sit in the classroom for three hours, they want to be outdoors playing,” said Reed.
Despite a focus on kindergarten preparedness, the Green Bay Area Public Schools say many students still aren't ready.
Twenty percent of five-year-old kindergarten students can't recognize letters or numbers when they start school.
School administrators say that's where parents can help.
“We all know that learning happens everywhere, and the more experiences we can expose our children to in the world, the better ready for school they'll be,” said Mary McCabe, the director of preschool programs for the Green Bay Public Schools.
McCabe says children who enjoy their first school experience absorb more of the material and are more prepared for kindergarten and beyond.
“I think as children learn and grow and if they start being curious about their world, learning things about their world and being encouraged to do that, that will make them curious and involved adults and that benefits all of us."
More school districts in Northeast Wisconsin say they are adding four-year-old kindergarten in their curriculum, due to popular demand.
That includes the Appleton public schools, which are implementing community-based sites from the get-go.
“We're doing so in a community collaboration approach whereby approximately 90 percent of our students will be in the community, preschools, day cares, and private schools, and we have some school sites,” said Suzette Preston, the director of preschool programs for the Appleton Area School District.
Staff from day cares and other community sites went through training this summer.
They will use the same curriculum as the public schools: The common core standards set out by the state of Wisconsin.
Instructors say students will then have a more even playing field when entering kindergarten.
This space at the YMCA in downtown Appleton underwent a transformation to be a 4K classroom.
Something instructors say will keep transitions from location to location for children at a minimum, and learning at a maximum.
“It makes it really easy for parents because now if they are used to bringing their kids to the Y, they can bring their kids to the Y now and have their kids do 4K and really learn some of those really valuable building blocks,” said Erin Pues, an instructor from the Downtown Appleton YMCA.
Setting kids up with the inquisitive skills they need to be life-long learners, cradle to career.
First responders helped ring in the holidays at the 45th annual Howard-Suamico Christmas Parade.
Christmas is just two and half weeks away, and kids and families are getting into the holiday spirit.
Single digit temps around the area caused problems in the Fox Valley Saturday morning.
The frigid temperatures forced some area communities to cancel their weekend Christmas celebrations. But New London braved the cold for its annual Holiday of Wonder Parade.
Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's all of the injuries, but many Packers fans are saying "no thanks," to this weekend's Packers game.
With only a little snow on the ground in places, snowmobilers are ready for more. In the Lakewood area, trails are not yet open, but clubs are gearing up for an early start to the season.