QUINCY -- Kenley Parks already has figured out the most important thing about starting school.
"I get to learn," the incoming kindergartner said.
She got the chance Friday to learn a little more about what kindergarten classes will be like at Sarah Atwater Denman Elementary School.
An all-new Kindergarten Camp -- held Friday at Denman and Iles with similar camps planned Tuesday at Baldwin, Aug. 12 at Rooney and Aug. 13 at Lincoln-Douglas -- gave incoming students an opportunity to start to get comfortable with their teacher and their school.
"The goal is so kids will be more comfortable when they come the first day of school," Denman kindergarten teacher Beth Kniel said.
Some 70 students took advantage of the opportunity, turning out for the morning and evening camp sessions.
"We want to get to know them a little and for them to get to know us," Denman teacher Pam Havermale said.
Kenley had no hesitation, marching down the hallway with a friend to the kindergarten common space where blocks, other building toys and books awaited.
She liked coming to camp. "I have fun," she said, just before she started playing with wooden blocks while sitting on a colorful rug.
Kenley's mom Sharadan Parks said the camp is a wonderful idea.
"It kind of helps ease the tension of first-day jitters. They've been here before, so that first day of school's not going to be such a big deal," Parks said.
The brand-new kindergartners tried out activities they would do on a typical first day of school. Teachers read a story, students did an art project and they had a chance to play with blocks and puzzles in the common area for the kindergarten classrooms.
"It also gives us an opportunity to see the kids and see how they interact with other kids, too. We see ones who are shy or might need a little more TLC the first day," Kniel said. "It gives us a little more information to make that first day a positive one for them."
When one little girl preferred reading to building with blocks, Kniel sat down with her and a bin of books. Soon Kniel was surrounded, with the kids hanging on her every word.
Kindergartner Aria Stark had some initial doubts, but soon she was happily playing.
Audreanna Stark said her daughter alternates between being excited and being nervous about the start of school on Aug. 15. "Most days she's excited to make new friends," Stark said.
"Introducing kindergarten in a smaller chunk at one time is going to be beneficial for those kids who are shy and also beneficial for ones who are outgoing," Stark said. "A whole day of kindergarten can kind of be a little overwhelming. This takes that away."
The camps provide a follow-up to kindergarten roundup, held in the spring, and were designed especially to help students make the transition to the new Denman and Thomas S. Baldwin buildings. Students for those buildings were split between the former Adams, Berrian, Ellington and Madison Schools.
"We knew the building they were coming to for roundup would not be the same building in the fall. Kids got to go to a classroom, but we wanted them to be able to see a classroom in the building they would be in," Kniel said.
"We wanted to allay any fears the parents and kids might have coming into a brand-new building," Havermale said. "We want them to get a feel of the building, get the lay of the land before 500 kids walk in the front door."