5 Fine Motor Skills Needed for Kindergarten Readiness in 2021

A kid practicing gardening activity

Even if your child has experienced pre-school, moving on to kindergarten is still an exciting step into the “big kid” world. Besides shopping for school supplies and new shoes, there are things you can do to make sure your little one is ready for the transition, including working on fine motor skills.

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

We’re so used to our bodies doing whatever we need them to do for daily tasks that it may seem like gross and fine motor skills are completely intuitive. This isn’t the case. Whereas gross motor skills refer to how well we use the large muscles in our body to run, jump and get out of bed, fine motor skills develop the small muscles in our wrists, hands, and fingers, allowing us to do everything from tying our shoes and buttoning our shirts to typing on a keyboard.

For small children, honing their fine motor abilities and hand-eye coordination are important steps toward independence. The ability to open doors, zip up a backpack, and wash their own hands lays the foundation for skills that come later, such as holding a pencil and playing a musical instrument.

For example, before children can learn to write or draw, their hands need to be strong enough to hold a pencil steady for extended amounts of time. Dexterity and coordination are also essential in order to take part in school sports and games.

Here are 5 skills to help your child master before entering kindergarten:
Use a pencil or crayon with some control
– Cut with scissors
– Copy basic shapes
– Form numbers and letters, especially the ones in their name
– Put together simple puzzles

What Are Some Fine Motor Activities for Kids?

1. Playing with Play Dough
If you don’t have any play clay on hand, it’s easy to make your own. To strengthen hand muscles, encourage your child to squeeze, stretch, pinch and roll “snakes”.
2. Playing with Sponges
Gather together a clean sponge, two bowls, and some water, and you’ll have another fine motor skills activity to strengthen hands and forearms. Fill one bowl with water and leave the other one empty, so your child can soak the sponge in the water and then squeeze it out into the other bowl.
3. Painting
Finger painting is a great way for kids to not only practice using their hands but also get really messy! You can also introduce painting with a brush, which helps children learn how to hold a brush correctly and use it as a tool. Try paint-by-number kits for this activity.
4. Practicing with tongs and tweezers
Moving different tiny objects (like Cheerios or beads) from one container to the other builds strength and coordination – and is also really fun.
5. Water play
Find an eyedropper, fill a cup about a quarter full of water and let your child try to transfer the water from one cup to the other by drawing the water into the dropper and squirting it into the empty cup. To make this even more exciting, have several cups and dye the water different colors with food coloring.
6. Gardening and planting
Digging and gardening might seem more like a way to build gross motor skills but certain enrichment activities, like transferring seedlings, require smaller muscle control and hand-eye coordination skills. Grasping a trowel also practices using a pincer grip.

Are You Looking for a Private Kindergarten School in Virginia Beach or near Chesapeake, VA?

Strelitz International Academy is one of the best private schools in southeastern Virginia. We take pride in our IB® Primary Years Programme (PYP), which is available to 3- to 12-year-old elementary school students. We believe your child will flourish in our environment, thanks to smaller class sizes, a unique curriculum, and exemplary teachers, staff, and administrators. Our goal is to put your child on the path to a lifelong love of learning and educational excellence.

We invite you to visit and learn more about our curriculum. Click here to find out more, or please give us a call at 757-424-4327.

SIA Graduation & Conclusion of a Successful Year

Students after graduating from SIA School

As the Strelitz International Academy graduates ascended the stage on June 8, 2021 for their special graduation ceremony, parents and supporters all cheered with joy and pride!

The 2020-2021 school year commenced with an unsettled beginning of the global pandemic, and graduation signaled the light at the end of the tunnel. Parents beamed with pride and smiles of gratitude knowing that their students had been in the best place possible – at the Strelitz International Academy with their friends as well as the support and guidance of the school and nurturing teachers.

In her opening remarks, Heather Moore, Head of School, thanked the community for their support which helped to ensure the success of the school year.

“Our goal for this school year was to provide in person instruction for all SIA students while ensuring the health and safety of our entire school community. We have been so fortunate this year and it is clear, our adherence to health mitigation strategies and recommendations from the CDC and VDH have kept our children and school personnel healthy and safe at school. I could not be more proud of our school. Thank you to our incredible community of teachers, staff, parents and students for working together to create a successful school year! And today we are able to come together to celebrate the Class of 2021!”

In their final essays, the graduates reflected on learning about the global pandemic, elections, democracy and the importance of community service and social action. Fifth grade students also recognized how much they have grown and matured during their time at the Strelitz International Academy – one of the leading IB primary schools in Virginia Beach. As an IB Candidate School®, students learn through inquiry, research and reflection. Fifth graders complete a special exhibition highlighting the growth outlined in their final school essay.

SIA graduates will be attending the following middle school programs this fall:

Cape Henry Collegiate, Great Neck Middle School, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program at Plaza Middle School, Kempsville Middle School, Lynnhaven Middle School, and Old Donation School.

During the graduation ceremony, each student was recognized with one or more special awards highlighting their talents and contributions to their class community. The graduates of SIA will take with them all of the love and wisdom they have received during their time at SIA as they proceed with confidence to middle school and beyond.

For information on enrollment or to schedule a tour of one of the best affordable private schools in Virginia Beach, please contact Carin Simon, Admissions Director, at csimon@strelitzacademy.org or 757.424.4327.

*Only schools authorized by the International Baccalaureate can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorization will be granted. For further information about the IB and its programmes, visit www.ibo.org

**Mission Statement from the IB The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Learning Goes Beyond the Classroom in the Four Year Old Pre-K Class at SIA

Four Year Old kids wearing custom masks at SIA

A long standing tradition of our EY4 program has been the Family of the Week project. The idea of setting aside a time for our students to share themselves and their families with the rest of their class has been in place since 2004.

In this pandemic era it has become particularly meaningful since parents are not able to be in the classroom meeting teachers and other students.

With the help of technology, parents, siblings and extended family members have been able to join in, via Google Meet on the big screen, to be a part of our classroom communities.

As one of the best affordable private schools in Virginia Beach and an International Baccalaureate Candidate School, the Family of the Week program has seamlessly integrated into the transdisciplinary unit Who We Are under the central idea: Families Cultivate Identities. Within this central idea students pursue various inquiries about customs and traditions within families. They learn about roles within the family and also about hobbies and careers.

During Family of the Week, our students have learned about making art out of reclaimed materials from a very crafty Bubby (grandmother). Another grandmother shared her artistry with knitting.

Parents have shared their careers; our students have met air force pilots, various kinds of doctors, a pair of mom and dad gemologists, an artist and countless other members of many professions. The students have had fun meetings with extended family members like cousins and aunts.

One aunt was an Occupational Therapist who they learned helps kids move better during daily activities. In another family they met a cousin who is another kind of community helper, a TSA, who helps keep airports safe.

One of our NATO families stationed here in Hampton Roads from Germany shared their RV travels in several states since they have been in our country. Another family from Germany shared pictures of castles they had visited in their home country.

One NATO family stationed here in Hampton Roads from Norway shared a great many facts about their native country that led to an inquiry about trees indigenous to their homeland. Sometimes our students tour their classmates’ rooms via the internet. One class found out that their friend had an amazing collection of dinosaur models at home! Many times families share favorite books, foods and hobbies.

The Family of the Week program has developed and evolved over the years into a very enriching addition to the learning activities in our EY4 classrooms, an essential part of an IB PYP school in Virginia Beach. To assess how family shapes our identities, our students created people figures representing themselves using words and pictures that illustrate how their experiences with their families have influenced who they are.

As a means of finding the connection between their families and their own identities, some classes have started identifying International Baccalaureate learner attributes they gained from parents like being a thinker or a risk taker, or open minded. By sharing their families with us our young friends are sharing themselves and it has been a wonderful experience for everyone.

Just a few spots left for the 2021-2022 School Year! For more information or to schedule a tour of one of the best private elementary schools in Virginia Beach, please contact Carin Simon, Admissions Director: 757.424.4327. SIA is centrally located near Chesapeake and Norfolk.

Parent Communication at SIA

Parent Communication in SIA

Parent and Teacher communication is a very important part of the private school experience at SIA. We are one of the best affordable private schools near Chesapeake and Norfolk. At the Strelitz International Academy, parents are encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher with any questions or concerns that arise during the school year.

Being an IB primary school in Norfolk, our goal is to bring out the best in each of our students and an important part of that process are our parents and teachers working together.

At the beginning of the year, parents and students are invited to meet their child’s teacher at a Back to School Meet and Greet. This past year, with Covid protocols in place, each teacher held a virtual meeting to meet students and parents excited about the new school year.

A few weeks later in September, after the school year begins, parents are invited to meet with the teacher to learn more about the curriculum for their child’s grade, classroom expectations and how they can support their children in their new grade level.

During the school year, the year is divided into trimesters and parents receive a very detailed report card carefully explaining their child’s strengths and areas for growth. Each teacher is very thorough in their narrative assessments giving parents an accurate picture of their child’s academic, social and emotional progress.

Parent and teacher conferences are offered in the fall and student-led conferences are offered in the spring. Parents are always invited to contact their child’s teacher if an issue or concern arises at another time.

This past fall, due to strict Covid protocols, all student conferences were held virtually. With most of our teacher community vaccinated, SIA is excited to hold in-person conferences outside this spring, on school grounds, weather permitting with distancing and masking protocols being followed.

As an IB Primary School in Virginia Beach, this is a very important part of the learning and evaluation process. During the conference, students will share their IB Portfolio with their parents. The portfolio includes special projects and student reflections to document each student’s growth as a learner.

In addition to report cards and parent conferences, regular teacher- parent communication is an essential part of student growth. Teachers regularly communicate with parents throughout the year.

SIA uses a communication platform called www.parentsquare.com allowing teacher to parent, parent to teacher and school wide messages to be sent out. Parents can program the messenger system to go to their email, phone or both to ensure they are alerted to all important school messages.

From infant care to SIA’s outstanding academic program, parents can feel secure knowing that their children are in the best learning environment as they grow and develop into confident and high achieving students ready to take on the world.

To schedule a visit, contact us at 757-424-4327.

Current trends in International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programs (IB PYP)

Children sit at the tables in the classroom and studying

In the wake of the worldwide pandemic, disruption to education occurred in record numbers across the globe. As a result, many schools and educators were forced to find alternative ways to keep students engaged, especially in terms of virtual learning.

It was a new environment for students and teachers, who learned to adapt together in order to make the best of a bad situation.

International Baccalaureate® (IB) schools seemed to adapt more easily to the change, as the inquiry-based curriculum the program instills had already prepared students to adjust, innovate, and flourish. Even the young Primary Years Programme (PYP) students seemed agile in acclimating to the changes, perhaps even more so than others.

Strelitz International Academy immediately realized how valuable our role was in developing knowledgeable, confident, and caring students during this traumatic period. As an IB PYP school serving Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach, we knew we had to do all we could to motivate our students to succeed by continuing their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

We decided early on that the best way to accomplish that was to get students back into a hands-on environment as quickly as safely possible. We created new health and welfare guidelines and dedicated a lot of time into how to best serve our students while also protecting our faculty, staff, and administrators.

Because of our small classroom sizes and diligence at safeguarding our campus, we were able to achieve our goals without incident, to the delight of our students, our parents, and our team members.

This has created the opportunity for new emerging trends to be identified and utilized in the educational process, especially when it comes to the impact the pandemic has had and will continue to have on our organization, our communities, and on innovation as a whole.

Organization – Strelitz International Academy is a strongly knit group of educators, administrators, and parents, who can mobilize quickly and shift paradigms effectively when it comes to providing the best educational environment for the students.
Community – Lessons learned during the COVID-19 outbreak demonstrated how powerful our interactions with others can be and how big a role each individual plays in the overall safeguarding of the planet.
Innovation – Virtual learning is certainly an impressive nod to technology, but we also know that innovation does not always mean the best use of the latest gadgets. Some of the smallest adjustments in how we led our day-to-day lives during the pandemic created innovative new ways to accomplish goals.

All of these lessons can be observed by our PYP students when highlighted by our teachers, which can and will be implemented in our educational process. The beauty of inquiry-based learning is that students can learn from real-world lessons and apply them to not only how they learn and understand, but also to how they can be good citizens of the world.

As of February 2021, there were more than 7,300 IB programs offered worldwide, in more than 5,400 schools throughout 158 countries. The four program elements, including the Primary Years Programme, now reach more than 1.4 million students aged 3-19 across the globe. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of IB programs offered across the planet increased more than 33 percent and continues to rise.

Strelitz International Academy recognized many years ago the value of private school education, especially how the PYP can benefit our students and prepare them for the next stages of their lives. We’re excited to see how the education they receive here is shaping their intelligence and values.

If you’re searching for a new school for your child, we encourage you to learn more about the IB PYP and how we put it to use. Better yet, contact us on 757-424-4327 and make an appointment to stop by our campus and see the program in action. We look forward to meeting you and we’d look forward to showing you all that we have to offer.

Helping Your Child Build Fine Motor Skills

IB Elementary School Students doing an Fine Motor Skills Activities at Strelitz International Academy

As adults, we probably take our fine motor skills for granted most of the time. Fine motor skills involve the coordination and synchronization of small muscles—usually in our fingers and hands or toes and feet—when performing complex levels of manual dexterity. This could be something simple such as catching a ball, or a task that’s a little more complicated, such as buttoning a shirt.

The reason we take these intricate movements for granted is because they are so well-ingrained in our minds that we can now do many of them without even thinking about it. However, there was a time in our development when someone helped hone those fine motor skills to give us the ability to write with a pen or type on a keyboard. These skills build over time. The idea is to practice them regularly to help establish better eye-hand coordination.

At Strelitz International Academy, we understand the importance of building fine motor skills, and regularly practice different tasks with our International Baccalaureate® (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) students, to help them build strength in the small muscles and program the central nervous system to coordinate the efforts. As an IB® elementary school serving Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk, this is just as important as academics, and well believe that providing this additional training helps to make us one of the best elementary schools.

Here are a few things you can do at home to help continue building fine motor skills in your child:
Setting the table: Manipulation of flatware such as knives, spoons, and forks requires the grasping of objects and placing them back down in a uniform manner.
Using scissors: Draw shapes on a piece of paper and let your child try to cut along the lines with child-safe scissors. Your child can then use a glue stick to paste those shapes back on to another piece of paper creating a lovely piece of art.
Puzzles: Putting puzzles together not only sharpens cognitive thinking, it helps to build fine motor skills by picking up individual puzzle pieces and successfully placing them where they need to go to complete the project.
Building blocks: Crafts such as Legos® are fantastic at building fine motor skills and they help to bring out the creative spirit in your child.
Eye droppers: This will require several glasses of water and food coloring. Next to each glass of water, write down a color and the number of drops that should go in the glass. This not only helps with fine motor skills, it’s a great way for younger kids to practice counting.
Rice: This one is a little more difficult and probably should only be used with more advanced children. You need two bowls of uncooked rice, two empty bowls, and a pair of tweezers. Two children can race each other, or they can go head-to-head with you, but the object is to take all of the grains of rice from the full bowl to the empty one using only the tweezers to pick up and transport the rice.

There are many different activities you can use at home to build fine motor skills in your child. Think up some great ideas yourself and put them into practice!

If you would like to enroll in the best IB elementary school serving Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, give us a call at 757.424.4327 to learn more about us and to submit an application.

Going From an IB Program to Another Program

Students Learning at IB PYP School

Moving can be a very stressful experience for young children. Making new friends, meeting new teachers and getting used to a new routine.

When getting ready to relocate to a new area, one of the things you can do to make the transition a little easier for your children is to try to find a good school that will provide them with an environment that is similar to the school they were in previously. Many schools do virtual tours with photo and informational slideshows to give you a good idea of the philosophy and program curriculum.

If your child is currently enrolled in an International Baccalaureate® (IB) program elementary school in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, you’ll want to find another IB® Primary Year Programme (PYP) school in your new location. If one is not available, look for a private school with small classes sizes, preferably that uses inquiry-based education.

For students who are not currently in an IB® PYP school, the International Baccalaureate (IB®) program is an inquiry-based educational system that seeks to develop the child as a whole. This means their education is formulated to both scholastics and inner growth. For a child that is going from a traditional educational format, such as what they received in a public school, the IB® PYP format is more about learning by experiences and asking questions rather than purely memorizing information presented in books and classroom lectures.

While a child going from an IB® PYP school to another program will present some new opportunities for the student, being able to utilize what they have previously learned will help them to build on the skills they already have and adapt them to their new surroundings. If there are any problems with the transition, a school with smaller classes sizes will ensure your student can get extra assistance from their teachers.

If you’re moving to the area and you’re looking for IB® PYP schools in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, we invite you to take a look at Strelitz International Academy. We are one of the premiere private elementary schools in the area for children age 3 to 12. As an IB® PYP candidate school, we can continue your child’s education, placing emphasis on their academic skills while encouraging their personal growth at the same time, to develop a more well-rounded student who develops a life-long love of academics.

Contact us at 757-424-4327 to learn more about our school and our curriculum. We’d love to have your new student join us and we’d also enjoy the opportunity to speak with you about the role you’ll play in your child’s education, both in and out of the classroom.

IB Professional Development Day at SIA

SIA faculty and administrators attended the IB® Virtual Conference

Strelitz International Academy recently held an International Baccalaureate (IB®) Professional Development Day for the whole school, led by SIA faculty and administrators who attended the IB® Virtual Conference held in early December 2020. The conference, titled “Reimagine the Future,” was the first of its kind, virtually welcoming more than 4,500 passionate educators and inspiring leaders from 110 countries across the globe.

In addition to keynote speakers and topic experts providing insights and inspiration, there were a total of 77 breakout sessions for virtual conference visitors to attend. Topics covered the Primary Years Programme, the Middle Years Programme, Diploma Programme, Career-related Programme, Cross-programme, Leadership, and Research.

The three keynote speakers included Kiran Bir Sethi, who presented “Human by Chance. HumanE by Design,” Graham Brown-Martin’s “Beyond tomorrow,” and Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, who lectured on “Leadership from the inside out.” These impactful speeches highlighted the importance educators play in creating learning environments that maximize students’ potential, stimulate innovation, and forge strong and long-lasting relationships with others.

The topic expert lectures urged conference attendees to re-evaluate their perceptions about teaching to find new strategies that would shape the future of learning. Some of the topics presented included, “Is our world really changing? Diversity and Inclusion in 2021” by Roy Gluckman; “Transform pedagogy, transform learning, transform education” by Chang Wathall; “Learning together while apart: Collaborative learning in the COVID era” by Daniel Wilson; “Practical digital wellbeing, or how to stay sane after eight hours of teaching on Zoom” by Dr. Anastasia Dedyukhina; “Building student agency through needs-based support plans” by Shelley Moore; and “Radical self-care as a tool to care radically for humanity” by Jamilah Pitts.

Considering this was a world-wide conference spanning two dozen time zones, the logistics involved to make sure attendees could have access to all of the information presented was incredible. To make it easier for people who could not attend a break-out session at 4:00 a.m. in their particular time zone, all sessions were available on-demand after airing so everyone could have access to them at any time.

Based on all of the information that our attendees came back with, our IB® Professional Development Day allowed us to review and share our new Assessment Policy, Formative versus Summative Assessments, rubrics, student portfolios, student reflections, inquiry into how concepts drive transdisciplinarity, and International Mindfulness.

This was a fantastic reminder for us all that education never stops. And Strelitz International Academy will continue to provide the best elementary school education possible for our students to help incite a life-long love of learning.

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