Read-Alouds, Yoga Help Prepare Children for Ossining Pre-K

Rising Park School pre-kindergarten students and their families have had fun getting to know Principal Cynthia Bardwell, Assistant Principal Melisa Stoller and their soon-to-be classmates on Zoom and in Nelson Sitting Park in August.

As part of the Pre-K Connections program, they met on Zoom August 17 to listen to a story called “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers. On Wednesday, they gathered in the park for another read-aloud, this time of “The Three Little Pigs,” “El pez Arcoiris” (“The Rainbow Fish”) and “The Little Red Hen.” They also did Calm Classroom, a mindfulness program the district uses, and some dancing during events in the park. The school gave away books for parents to read with their children.

The next day, they practiced yoga with Ms. Stoller, a Breathe for Change-certified instructor in yoga, mindfulness and social-emotional learning. Everyone wore a mask and practiced social distancing in Nelson Park, which is next to the school.

Ms. Bardwell and Ms. Stoller shared crucial tips with families and caregivers about how to best support their children with readiness skills in reading and math, communication skills, and social and motor skills. They also discussed the importance of promoting independence at home. The school also invited pre-kindergarteners and new kindergarteners to a bus orientation the following week.

“We were thrilled to meet our new students and families,” Ms. Stoller said. “Their faces just reminded us of the importance of being connected more than ever. Relationships matter and they are the base of the work we do.”

In the morning yoga session, Ms. Stoller began by asking everyone to find a comfortable position, such as criss-cross applesauce. Relax your shoulders, she said, and “breathe in love and we are going to exhale gratitude.” After a few times, she told them she had breathed in all their love and breathed out all her gratitude for them.

“You are all very important; you are unique. Uds. son Ășnicos and we love you; nosotros los amamos,” she said.

Ms. Stoller guided them through a number of poses: table, cat, cow, downward-facing dog, mountain, tree and more. Children modeled their poses on Ms. Stoller’s and their mother’s or father’s. The tree pose was challenging, but some parent-child teams were able to maintain their balance by holding hands.

“Remember, listen to your body. I love the teamwork between parents and children,” Ms. Stoller said. “And now we are trees. Move your branches. Wow, look at all these beautiful trees.”

Leslie Centofanti and her son, Brandon, wobbled a little but supported each other during the tree pose. “I am so impressed that they were able to do this,” Ms. Centofanti said after the class as Enya played in the background. “I think if they could do more of this, that would be fantastic. It was really good.”

Brandon said he is excited about going to school, learning new things and making friends.

“We can’t wait, right B?” his mother said. “We’ve been looking forward to this for like two years.”

Bryan Martinez and his son, Lorenzo, also attended the yoga class. “This is nice,” Mr. Martinez said. “It gets him acclimated to not being in the house all day. It gets him used to seeing other kids again, finally, and meeting some of the teachers that he might be dealing with.”

Nayeli Abril, who attended with her daughter, Grace Studer, said the event was a good experience for Grace. “It is helpful for her,” Ms. Abril said. “I want her to do other things besides watching TV.”

David Smith and his son, Zeke, enjoyed the activity. Zeke talked with his dad during the class, telling him at different times that his hands and his feet felt heavy. The yoga was great, said Mr. Smith, who is a certified yoga instructor. “I thought it was very simple for the kids to follow,” he said.

He and his wife, who moved to Ossining from Mamaroneck a few years ago, are excited about the school district. “The diversity is great,” he said.

Ms. Stoller gave children and parents a few hints about how things will work in school. At times during the day when they are allowed to take off their masks, they must keep them in a paper bag. She also said they could fill up their water bottles at school water fountains that have bottle-filling stations.

She encouraged the parents to practice yoga at home with children “whenever you need a moment of peace.” They can lie on mats, put their hands on their bellies and notice their breath as their stomachs move up and down.

“I promise you that you will feel better,” she said.

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