What matters most!

I have been on the phone with lots of families over the last few days offering spaces in our re-opening Cook Road Children's Centre. (almost full!!)

Not unsurprisingly many ask me what the centre looks like?  Is is new? Is there new equipment? Many make the comparison to our newer centres hoping it will look similar (a tall order for a 17 year old space!).

I totally understand concerns about the environment parents are placing their children in and this is in no way meant to minimize those important questions.

For me, the space is just a container in which we do the important work of nurturing curiosity and honouring childhood.

A beautiful container is .... well.....a beautiful thing!  

We believe children, and the adults who care for them, deserve to spend their time in spaces built for them, that function for their needs, that soothe and inspire, that offer possibilities for discovery and creativity.  

I love this part of my work, designing these spaces and I keep the children and Educators at the forefront when choosing colours and finishes and cubbies and toilets!  We consider traffic flow, light, space to store things, space to build, beautiful outdoor spaces and SO much more....right down to draw pulls and the colour of grout!

But here is THE thing.....a container is just a container, no matter how lovely, it can only offer so much value.  

What matters the most, by many miles, is the Educators in the space. 

Educators who are lively, joyful, observant, attentive, engaged and curious.  Who are well trained and hopefully bring some experience of working with children and families.  Who daily offer children ways to think deeply, explore ideas, take on new knowledge, learn how to be good citizens.....and how to clean up and wash their hands!  

It is my daily privilege to see such Educators at work.  

I hear their voices, see them come alongside to comfort or guide or celebrate with children.  Always building the trust in relationship that is necessary for the days we spend together to be joyful and productive and engaging.

I see them add things to the space every day to spark the children's interest, to provoke a new thought or line of discussion, to try a new art form.  

I hear laughter and cheers and singing....I smell baking (and the necessary evil of bleach - for make no mistake there are many many chores that have to be done to keep the space healthy and functional), I see them walking outside hand in hand a child, an Educator, in conversation...... living life together in all its joy and messiness in as authentic a way as we can manage. 

The space matters.  

The Educators matter much much more!

Corporate HQ

I will admit there are times I actually dream of the SRCC having a head office.....and dedicated space for the Leaders to have actual offices...together....and maybe a board room..... sometimes my dreams are a little over the top

Or a bit ridiculous (although I do believe this is at Google?)

When the reality of this office/store room gets me down......

I imagine this......

With an assistant.....

While this is all fun to dream about the truth is that the SRCC needs a HQ ..... soon... and to that end a grant proposal is before the Provincial Government that may help us realise an appropriately scaled down version of this dream so please cross your fingers and toes for us!  And if you know anyone in Government.....call me!

But the work goes on regardless and in a effort to hold our Leadership Team Meetings in a professional setting our local Credit Union came to the rescue.  Vancity Credit Union has a "Community Stage" they offer to local organisations at no cost!

Of course our meetings are usually very early in the morning so I had a key fob and alarm code to get into the bank this morning

As if my palms weren't sweaty enough I caught sight of myself on the closed circuit TV which made me very anxious for some reason

I managed to get in without setting off the alarm - PHEW!  And set up the room for my Leadership Team...... yup..... I gave them each a million bucks......

Breakfast helped us get through a long agenda

We saw this and were sorely tempted to write ourselves a cheque with a few zeroes but we figured we'd trust the saying that "all good things come to those who WAIT" .....

Our thanks to Vancity for offering this lovely space to us for free  - it's a great solution for us while we wait.

Scaffolding - a story

In our work we use the word "scaffolding".....and just like builders use scaffolding on a building, going up one level at a time, making sure each level is secured properly before moving on... we believe children's knowledge is constructed in much the same way.  

Our job as Educators is to notice their interest or provoke their thinking in a contextual and 
meaningful way, layer upon layer, as they show readiness for the next step.

In the example below from our Preschool Educators I was struck at the way they very carefully "scaffolded" with this group of children in order to help them be successful at the task/experience the teachers had in store for them.  Less experienced and less thoughtful Educators would have just taken the children for the walk and hoped for the best.. the way these Educators handled the situation set the children up to be confident and successful was wonderful to read.... here is their story..

A Neighbourhood Adventure awaits...... (West Cambie Preschool)

Our children enjoy playing in the outdoor playground every day, rain or shine. 

We discussed taking the children for a longer walk through neighborhood.  Until now we have only left the playground to go to our designated spot to practice our monthly fire drills.  This is a short distance to walk but even during the short distance some of the children struggled to follow directions and needed many reminders to stay in a group.  

We wanted to go on adventures with the children but it we could see the children would need a little more coaching to do this successfully. 

Tianna and I discussed how we could prepare the children for our first walk. First we needed to figure out activities that would prepare them for the big day.
 We decided that the children needed to become familiar with certain safety rules.  We needed to teach the children to walk behind a teacher, walk together with a partner, understand the reasons why we need to stay together and show the children what the side walk, road and stop signs were all about.   

  We began setting up activities for the children. We drew a road and sidewalk with chalk  in the play area and set up the cars and acted out what our walk would look like.  This way the children could experience walking together with partners and follow the rules that the teachers had set.  

Next we set up a road on the art table with toy cars and people and the children reenacted crossing the street with the dolls and cars safely. Not all of the children participated in the road activity, art is optional for the children, so we presented the road at circle time and all of the children had turns to walk the dolls across the road safely. 

We wanted to make learning the safety rules fun and used our tunnels as an entry to the classroom after outdoor play this required the children to wait in line and take turns.  

We played "Go Go Stop" and "What Time Is it Mr. Wolf" which required the children to listen and follow the instructions.

After all of the practice and activities we decided it was time to go for our walk. 
We reminded the children of what they had learned about walks already and made our way out of the building for our very first adventure.  

We crossed the street and waited in line at the stop light. 

It was exciting to see the children walk so well as a group. On the walk the children noticed many things some of which were rocks, leaves and branches to bring back to the classroom. 

We were so proud of the children and happy that we had had our first walk with such success, excitement and discovery!

Since the walk we have taken several walks and will continue to go on our walks and venture out further each time.      (Written by Kulvir Dulay)
I hope you see the thoughtfulness and intention of these Educators..... "scaffolding" children's knowledge so they can have more experiences and big adventures!  

The new kid

I think many of you are awaiting news of our new centre at Steveston and No 5 in the old Fantasy Garden Castle joined to the brand new presentation centre for The Gardens........ a name for this centre has not been chosen but it will not be "Fantasy Castle" as was suggested to me this week!

If you have any name suggestions we'd love to hear them!

So really what you all want to know is "When is it opening?".

Well.....not as soon as we had hoped.

It's a challenging project and it has had some...... challenges...... I am guessing about 15% of the grey hairs on my head are directly attributable to this project and it is barely started!

The official line is that it will be completed in 2015.

The reality of that is that we will likely look to open it in the Spring of 2016 depending on 3-5 enrollment. We know we can fill the Infant/Toddlers 12 spaces already but to finance those spaces we need the 3-5's 25 spaces to be full (or very close).

Stay tuned - we will use this blog to update you.... we are currently signing off on floor plans and working on landscape plans and interior design details and within the month the project should move forward to the Building Approval stage at the City.

Here are some photos.....

Still two separate building but soon to be one

The 3-5 playground

A 12 acre park is our neighbour to the east - fabulous! 

Above - The future site of the Infant Toddler Playground

The 5 x 7 Project

“Jennifer!  Take a picture of me!  Take a picture of me!”

That seems to be what I hear the most these days when I visit our programs.  

A few months ago, I started a project of taking photos of the children with the intention of displaying them on the walls of our centres in the hopes that it would show how we honour the childhood of these children which is our vision.  

The idea came after a visit with the London Bridge Child Care Programs in London, Ontario where they had numerous photos of their children posted around their centres. The photos were very carefully taken with much thought into capturing who the child is.  I really admired that so I set out to start my own project.  I was very specific about wanting them to be 5 x 7s because I wanted them to be big enough to capture the essence of the child but small enough so that I could still post several of them on the wall.  I struggled to decide whether I wanted the photos to be in black and white or colour.  In the end, I chose black and white because I find that there is a feeling of stillness in a black and white photo.  I also find that black and white photos focus on the subject which helps in capturing the personality of a child.

This project has been such a labour of love in so many ways.  What started out as a goal for myself to capture every single child we have in the SRCC has become so much more than that.  Taking these photos of the children has given me a chance to get to know them and engage with them.  It’s funny how you can learn so much about a child when you are following them around like the paparazzi!  I have learned that some children are so used to having their photo taken that they either:  a) run away from me when they hear my camera turn on or b) they strike a pose <<cue the Vogue music>>.  Without fail though after the image is captured, they love to see themselves on the screen which leads to many conversations of how the image gets into the camera. 

This project has become more than just taking photos and posting them on the wall.  It gives families a way to engage with the children as well.  I am based at West Cambie Children’s Centre and the photos at that centre are posted down the hallway right outside my office where all the families have to walk down to get to the programs.  I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the children talk to their families about the photos….their photos.  There is always a sense of pride or jubilation when they find their own photo to show to their parents.  

Once I have completed all the photos which will definitely be an ongoing project.  I am hoping to ask families to put their child’s name on these photos and write out how they came up with the name.  Our names are such an integral part of who we are – it is the beginning of our story.

This is my Story…..My name is Jennifer……….and this is what my role is.  I am the Program Director for the SRCC and I visit all our programs to check in and see how our educators (and children) are doing in terms of following our curriculum and living out our vision and values.  It is a unique position as it allows me to mentor educators as well as learn from them.  And of course, this position gives me the opportunity to engage with each child in the SRCC and dwell in their thinking with them.  

As for my name…Jennifer Anthea, I was given my Chinese name first which phonetically sounds like “See Wah” and it serves to be a reminder of my Chinese heritage.  My parents decided that Jennifer sounded the most compatible with my Chinese name.  As for my second name, my Dad’s name is Anthony and my parents wanted a name for me that is a feminine version of Anthony and thus, Anthea came to be.  That is the story of my name and now we’d love to hear your story of your child’s name.

In the meantime, keep looking for new photos being posted up!

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