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All-boys K class not so different

Jay Monagh was one of students in all-boys kindergarten at Davie Jones elementary last year. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Jay Monagh was one of students in all-boys kindergarten at Davie Jones elementary last year.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

As they graduate their first year of public school tomorrow, local educators can look back on the anomaly of an all-boys kindergarten class.

In a demographic glitch, there were only eight girls among the 40 kindergarten students who registered for school at Davie Jones elementary in September.

So, 16 boys were placed in an all-male kindergarten class, and eight girls were put into a traditional co-ed class.

There were a lot of questions about  how an all-boys kindergarten class would function, said principal Stuart Richardson.

Would the boys be too loud? Super active? Would it be best to engage them outdoors as often as possible?

“They surprised us, almost from the very beginning,” said Richardson. “It wasn’t what we expected – they ended up being calmer.”

He said the boys group would get an extra “run around” outside each day, and the group was indeed generally glad to be out there, in almost any weather.

But they were also attentive and happy indoors, playing with Lego and construction toys, drawing, doing literacy activities and other play-based learning uses in early grades.

“They loved it [school], and they were exactly like your typical kindergarten class.”

One play area was more popular with the boys class than is generally observed in a gender-split class – they actually spent more time in the house centre, with its play kitchen.

Richardson presented it as a simple observation, and said one teacher speculated it was perhaps a more popular play area “because they didn’t feel they had to share it with the girls.”

The boys also took part in a program called Roots of Empathy, where a newborn is brought into the classroom to visit with the students. The interactions are repeated as the baby develops, so the boys were able to visit with Baby Mitchell over about seven months, and watch him grow.

Richardson said the boys were keenly interested, wanting to hold Mitchell.

“In fact, they [teachers] were very surprised with how demonstrative these boys were with their emotions,” said Richardson.

While physical contact is common with young boys, the class did not engage in a lot of hitting or horseplay, but were “physically demonstrative in a positive way.”

Teacher Lisa Burkett taught two days per week with the all-boys kindergarten class, and also worked three days a week with a Grade 1 mixed-gender class at another school. Burkett found she could take essentially the same approach with each.

“It wasn’t that different,” she said. “You try to get outside more often.”

Richardson said he will sometimes have to become involved with even kindergarten-age students for violent or inappropriate behaviour, but there were no issues with the all-boys group.

“By any measure we can apply, these boys are right where they should be,” said the principal.

“These boys had a great year, and learned as well as the heterogenous class next door.”

Doing research on the topic, the principal looked at an all-boys kindergarten class in Michigan State.

“It also turned out to be a lot of nothing,” he said.

The gender imbalance will follow the group into Grade 1, but rather than having the all-boys class continue, Richardson said his plan is to have split Grade 1/2 or kindergarten Grade 1 classes, so there will be girls in each class.

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