Living Sustainably: Early learning skills are crucial to youngsters, community

By Kate Flynn, Ready for School

Gaining confidence, as earned through the Start School Ready program, can be a valuable asset for a young person heading off to school.

What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” Lao Tzu
Watch a group of very young children engaged in studying insects. What are they learning?
Fundamental concepts about the natural and social world, and discovering those answers by observing habitats, journaling and researching alongside their peers. They’re practicing social skills while laying the groundwork for deeper learning, critical thinking skills, and problem solving.
To sustain growth of a vibrant economic future, seeds of community and a love of learning must be planted early. Ready for School’s Start School Ready is a perfect example.
Last summer I watched my own son, Will, thrive during Start School Ready, a program designed to ease soon-to-be kindergartners and their families into the transition to school. Success lies in creating an environment that supports early learning by building relationships: Relationship to routine, to academics, and to people (teachers, fellow students and staff).

Learning to work with others and develop relationships is part of summer learning experience, too.

In the Bumblebee room, his teachers combined the routines of a typical school day with outdoor exploration to build math, literacy and social-emotional skills, translating experiences into increased school readiness. Insects like roly poly pill bugs made learning real in the summer and relevant into kindergarten.
A week into kindergarten, Will declared his desire to “pass” on school. Even with the positive experience of Start School Ready, he was struggling. “Will, keep trying and trust me on this, it will get better.” With mom credibility on the line, it had to get better.
A month into the school year, I shared with him a memory: “When I was in kindergarten, there were two boys in my class who didn’t know how to tie their shoelaces. I practiced with them every morning.” He was listening. “Will, what if a classmate is counting on you to show up? What if you go to school to teach and learn?” His big, thoughtful brown eyes locked in on me. A heartbeat later, Will responded, “Like Alaina at Start School Ready! When she was sad I found her a roly poly bug, and it made her happy again.”

Start School Ready helps young people learn the essential skills for doing well at school, including getting familiar with routines, with learning and with other people.

Suddenly there it was, a breakthrough that has carried us both through a critical year of kindergarten. Will is now rolling into first grade even more confident and loving learning and school every day.
School readiness is about routine, academic, and relationship readiness. The return on investment is shared moments of discovery and the pleasure of teaching and learning something relevant and interesting.
My son lives in a community that elevates early childhood learning, and it has made all the difference. We have to co-create environments for our children to thrive. How? By ensuring opportunities for relevance in learning all year round.
And by increasing access to early learning opportunities and experiences like Start School Ready, our youngest citizens reach kindergarten better prepared for success in kindergarten, year-round and in life.
Do you know a soon-to-be kindergartener? Learn more and apply to attend this summer at!

 As chief development officer at Ready for School, Kate Flynn is lead storyteller of ways our community is elevating early learning and investing in the potential of all children.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.