WESLEY CHAPEL — When Jordan Pagliaro, 5, first attended the Double Branch Elementary School Kindergarten Round-Up, he had some reservations about certain classroom activities.
"Coloring is hard," the incoming kindergartener told teacher and camp co-administrator Ashley Walter.
"With kindergarten you get lots of practice," she assured him. "Then it isn't hard anymore."
Jordan set to work, filling a coloring book page with myriad bright crayons, explaining the meaning behind each color and signing his name to his artwork.
"I wrote my name!" he said. "I'm a superhero."
Making sure that students love their first year of school is the idea behind the Kindergarten Round-Up; a camp that ran July 29-31 at Double Branch.
The annual program is a crash course in kindergarten and draws 60 to 75 students each year — about 60-70 percent of the incoming kindergarten class, according to principal Vaughnette Chandler.
"The idea is to show kids what kindergarten will look like," she said.
Students work on basic skills. They learn to spell their names, study the alphabet and sit quietly on the floor for reading time with teachers.
"A lot of parents don't believe that we have them reading and writing in kindergarten," Chandler said. "But when they see the smiles on their kids' faces, they believe."
The children also draw, do crafts, work puzzles, exercise and work with building blocks.
"I learned how to draw sharks," said Madison Cofini, 5. "I got to go to the library and read. Kindergarten is fun!"
Students also learn the importance of proper classroom behavior such as walking in a line and following directions. And they learn the ins and outs of the car loop and the cafeteria.
"This is a vital part of their transition to kindergarten for both kids and parents," Walter said.
Beyond the basics, there are some valuable lessons. Teachers tell students that it's okay to be nervous about their first day of school, and they introduce themselves to the children's parents.
In an effort to gauge students' true feelings about the scholastic experience, teachers asked the kids to apply color-coded tags to an emotion board, to show whether they were happy, sad, shy, nervous or mad about starting school. Most students indicated that they were happy. One emotion was not represented on the board.
"We don't have any sads!" exclaimed Spencer Palmer, 5.