Five-year-olds Brandon Smith and Samuel Soto hovered around a glass tank containing two gerbils.
It was just one of many interesting things on hand in teacher Bonnie Hubert's kindergarten classroom during Monday's open house. Others were a fake cash register, play phone, pseudo kitchen sink and several piles of Rice Krispies treats.
"Mama, look at me. I touched it," Samuel said gingerly rubbing the top of one of the gerbils and then running over to the two other glass tanks to see what was inside.
"And those are fishes, but I don't know what's in there," he said, pointing to a tank with no creatures visible.
"I don't think there's anything in there," said his mom, Monique Soto.
"There is," he said definitively. "It's rocks."
Samuel's first day in kindergarten at Fritsch Elementary School is today, but it's not his first experience in school. His mom signed him up for Head Start pre-school last year so he could be around other children and get ahead on the learning curve.
But kindergarten requires Samuel to be brave. While some of the youngsters will be dropped off by their parents, Samuel, accompanied by an older cousin, will take the bus to school each day.
"He's excited," his mom said. "But he still wants to do the whole summer thing."
With school starting today, Hubert will have 25 students in her morning kindergarten class, which runs from 8:30 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
"We can't believe it's already come," said Diana Smith about her son Brandon. "It's exciting."
Brandon's dad, David, was also at the open house. Monday's hour-long event not only allowed students to become acquainted with the classroom, but also to meet some of the other students - all with the reassurance of parents nearby.
"We just like to create a family atmosphere," Hubert said. "We like the kids to see the room. It makes them more comfortable."
The kindergarten room is flush with books, kid-sized chairs, a large TV capable of playing DVDs and videos and lots of toys. Boys and girls bathrooms are in the side of the classroom.
Parents received folders of information about school, including free and reduced lunches, breakfast and lunch menus, accident and health insurance and a list of kindergarten tips from Hubert. A poem called "September" in either English or Spanish was pasted on the folder cover.
She asked parents to write down for her how their children will get to and from school. Morning kindergartners are able to take the bus to school, but must be picked up.
"Hopefully, all the answers are in the folder," Hubert said. "The big thing that we want to know is how kids are getting home."
Also crucial to a smooth first day in kindergarten is knowing where your locker is and also how to open it.
"You have to push in and push up," Hubert demonstrated for one student. "Sometimes they stick. These lockers are a little old."
What your child should know by the end of kindergarten:
• Practice the correct way to form letters
• Correctly spell and capitalize your own name
• Identify and use high-frequency words
• Identify and sort pennies, nickels and dimes
• Recite the days of the week in order
• Identify shapes
• Read and write numbers 0-10
• Identify your school, city, state and nation by name
• Observe and record daily weather
• Know that we live on Earth and where the United States and Nevada are on a map
• Learn mouse skills and understand the keyboard of a computer
- Source: Carson City Educational Services Department
Tips to create a happy kindergartner
• Send your child to school in clothes for learning. Wash-and-wear items are best.
• Print names on the inside of all clothing your child might take off at school, like sweatshirts, mittens and coats. Label the inside of your child's snack box and backpack.
• Send your child to school with a nutritious snack daily. Suggestions include cheese and crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables, yogurt or graham crackers. No glass containers, soda, candy, donuts, cupcakes, etc.
• Do not drop off children too early at morning kindergarten or afternoon kindergarten because there may not be adult care there to watch them.
• Keep your child at home if they are ill. Recovery will be faster with rest at home and others in the classroom will not be infected. When your child returns, send a written note.
- Source: Fritsch Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Bonnie Hubert