We hold the value of "Relationship" very tenderly but very firmly in the SRCC.  We believe that everything happens in relationship and we do a disservice to our work if we do not pay special and careful attention to the relationships in our centres.

This is no small task but its very complexity is what leads to the deep enrichment it brings when we do it.  When we invest in building authentic relationships we enrich ourselves and one another.  Most importantly we honour the children and model for them the meaning of belonging, of community.
That is not to say we get this right all the time or with everyone.  

This is to say this commitment to building relationships permeates all we do.
  • From our relationships with the people and organisations we do business with.  Adding value there, taking a moment to help them understand our work, the impact we can have on one another...that builds community and collaboration.
  • From the time we first meet families we seek to understand and connect as  the basis for a relationship that is critical for the wellbeing of the children we all care about. We choose to disclose what we can about ourselves as you choose to trust us with this time in your families life.  We walk together with you through these years and we want to know you and mutually add value to each others lives. 
  • From the relationships between families that often become a support network, where deep friendships often develop.  We want to offer you ways to build and strengthen these relationships (like having Family Fun Day!)
  • From the time our Educators spend building relationships in their teams, wrestling with big ideas, with how to support challenging behaviour, how to extend children's thinking, how to communicate effectively and 1001 other things they need to dialogue about.
  • From the relationship between Educators and the children as we seek to really know each child.  To know who needs a hug and who needs to run and who needs art and who needs the build trust and camaraderie and compassion in the classroom to facilitate the relationships.
  • From the relationships we support between children.  Those foundational social skills of listening and hearing and compromising and challenging we nurture and grow them in relationship. 

All these things came to mind this week when our Program Director Jennifer sent me a photo of siblings at Terra Nova Children's Centre that she caught in a moment of tenderness, of love.

It is not always easy for us to foster sibling relationships.  The artificial age groupings separate siblings.  There are constraints.

But when a value is held, is central to our work, like relationships are, then we do not settle in to the constraints and shrug our shoulders and say "Oh well", or "it would be nice BUT".... we work towards the value.

In all our multi-age sites we offer as many opportunities as we can for siblings to build their relationships.  We have the big brothers and sisters visit one another in program or we find a common space and invite just those sibling groups to engage in a stretch of time to play together.  When a brother or sister (or even a cousin, as we have lots of those!) is having a hard day or a sad day or a celebration day we offer them time to be with their brother or sister( or cousin), to draw some comfort from their familial togetherness.

At this time of year we sometimes have the rare privilege of having a Kindergarten bound sibling still with us in the summer as their younger sibling, just 3, joins the program and they have the summer together.... this is the case for this sibling group.  We trust their time together will strengthen their bond and that they will have fond memories of their time together.

I am thankful to these two (and to Jennifer) for the reminder that we are all connected.  We belong to a community and we are all the richer for the belonging.

Not just any "play"

I am often asked what children "learn" when at our centres.  And too often we Early Childhood Educators answer with "children learn through play".  This statement we make is not untrue.....we know that through play children learn many things.  

But it's not just any play.

The kind of play that facilitates curiosity and discovery and adds knowledge to a child's world is play that is intentional and engaging.

To get this type of play requires two things 
1) Educators who bring their knowledge of child development, their keen observations skills and their ability to facilitate conversation with children to deepen their thinking.
2) An environment that fosters curiosity, that has open ended materials that can be used in multiple ways, that allows for independent, autonomous functioning of the children as well as social competence.

This all seems like a lot of ECE speak..... let me illustrate this with an example.  

This example took place in 5-10 minutes, mid-morning at Terra Nova Children's Centre.

To set the scene:  An Educator had set the table with a variety of plastic and real insects (dead real ones), some magnifying glasses, paper, markers and pencils.  We call this a provocation.  This Educator had observed the children had a keen interest in insects and was offering them an opportunity to study them more closely and then challenging them to draw what they were observing. 

This is what R did with this opportunity

1. First she studied the caterpillar.  She put it on her paper and very carefully began to draw

2.First the body

3.Then the head and antennae and the "back antennae" which we both agreed were very interesting.

4.Then "all those legs"....we did some counting of "all those legs"

5. Finally all the legs were drawn

6. R looked carefully, using her scientific tool, to see if her caterpillar was accurate

7.  R then began to write letters across the top of her paper, carefully making a line and then writing on top of the line.  When asked she said she was writing "notes" about the caterpillar.

8.  She switched to a pencil to make some letters from her name.

And then took her drawing and put it in her cubby.  
Just one more thing to take home.  
And yet so extraordinary!

I hope you can see how much learning was in this brief time with one child in one centre..... literacy, numeracy, math, science, art, fine-motor practice, pre-reading skills... R showed us she is a careful observer and is skilled at translating what she sees on to paper and making sense of it, an important cognitive milestone.  R is also showing her curiosity about letters and writing...all of this done from R's own initiative, on her schedule and fueled by her own curiosity..... thanks to the opportunity offered by the Educator.

A play-full few minutes but so rich in learning.

Imagine this moment, or one like it,  happening hundreds of times a day across all our centres...THIS is learning through play.

Do you have other questions we could try to answer?  

What more do you want to know about our work with your children? 

PS  please excuse R's green hands - she had just been over in the art studio playing with goop....

SRCC Mom's

Dear SRCC Moms

Happy Mother's Day

We wanted to say something to you today.

We see you.

We see you coming in juggling one or two or three children, lunches, bedding, extra clothes.

We see you kissing those little cheeks, calling out goodbye, drawing a picture on the window

We see you regretfully leaving after a cross word

We see your worry, sadness at tears

We see you coming back after your day, weary but eager to see you little one

We see your frustration when things haven't gone well at the centre that day

We see your joy in art handed to you, arms flung around you.

We see you connecting with us and other parents, building community

We see you mothering every day

You are amazing!

And we want to thank you for the trust you place in us everyday.

For sharing this part of your life, of your child's life with us. 

We know that is no small thing and we hold that trust carefully and tenderly.

We wish you all much joy in your mothering this Mother's Day.

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 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.

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