FAIRMONT - Standing in a line down the center of the hall, a class full of almost kindergarteners were quiet, holding their hands behind their backs and waiting for instructions from their teachers.
It may seem like a little thing, but this is learned behavior, something 95 students have been soaking up the past two weeks in KinderCamp as they prepare to enter kindergarten this fall.
KinderCamp ended Thursday. The program was made possible through a grant from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, obtained by Fairmont Early Childhood Initiative. The grant, for $11,900, paid for teachers' salaries, a free book for each child and evaluations.
Students practice writing while laying on their stomachs at KinderCamp in Fairmont.
"The program is expensive to run," said Community Education and Recreation director Roni Dauer.
Benefits have been identified already.
Judy Anderson, an aide in one of the four classrooms, said students have learned important skills already.
"They have come out of their shell," she said. "They have learned how to walk in the hall and how we eat lunch and how to get along with friends."
Teaching students rules, routines, and social skills are a big part of the first few weeks of kindergarten, as is spending the day away from mom and dad.
Teacher Erin Meyers said the camp went even better than she expected.
During the first few days of school, teachers are often dealing with crying children who have trouble adjusting to the change.
"We haven't had any of that," she said. "It makes us really excited for the fall. They are eager to learn and try new things."
Although KinderCamp takes place at Fairmont Elementary, students from all Martin County schools were invited to participate.
KinderCamp teacher Mary Betts, who teaches at St. John Vianney during the regular school year, said she doesn't think the difference in schools will be a problem.
"They are able to meet new friends and know what it is like to work with kids from other schools," she said. "This has basically been wonderful, getting ready for the routine of school, getting the jitters out, remembering the alphabet."
Ann Gibeau, who also teaches at St. John Vianney during the regular year, said she talked with the students over the past two weeks about having a different teacher and classroom and maybe even a different school in September.
She said she doesn't think it will cause any confusion for the students.
Dauer said KinderCamp was held simultaneously with summer school for the older grades, and the school was used as a community food site, so students got the chance to be in the building with other students, eat both breakfast and lunch in the school cafeteria, and for some, ride the bus.
"It all fit together so well," Dauer said.
Dauer said the grant only covers one year of KinderCamp. The students will be followed through the year to determine what difference the program made.
Hopefully, she said, funding will be found to continue the program in future years.
"It is exciting to have this and the kids are excited," she said.