May is recognized as childcare month in B.C. each year, but the SD8 Kootenay Lake Innovative Learning Department is committed to advancing early learning initiatives the entire year long.
This spring, as part of the ongoing collaboration with community early years providers, SD8 sponsored 60 local early childhood educators, primary teachers and educational assistants to attend the West Kootenay Early Years Conference.
“Building strong collaborative relationships has directly supported our ECE’s, childcare providers, teachers and ultimately our children and families. Collaboration grows communities,” said Heather Broad and Samantha Zaytsoff of the West Kootenay Child Care Resource and Referral, a program of Kootenay Kids Society.
In addition, SD8 also purchased 700 picture books to be given as gifts to preschooler families who attend our StrongStarts, childcare centres and preschools in the region. The selected book The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald, is recommended for parents and teachers to help promote healthy body image and self-esteem and to discuss diversity with children.
“We recognize that it takes the whole community to raise every child,” says Naomi Ross, district principal of innovative learning, “We also know that there is a need for additional supports, especially during the transition from early years to Kindergarten.”
As part of our “Welcome to Kindergarten” initiative, every Kindergarten child in SD8 is given a cloth tote bag filled with school supplies and a picture book. Further supports this year have included increased staffing in K/1 classrooms across the district, ensuring there is a full-time education assistant in all K/1 classrooms with 10 students or more.
Last fall a district-wide inventory of literacy resources was conducted to identify which schools needed additional early levelled books for primary grades. Funding of $14,000 for literacy resources for emerging and early readers was distributed to schools throughout the district, creating equity across all families of schools through the inventory process.
“Thank you so much for the funds we were given to purchase levelled readers this year,” says Wildflower teacher Emma White. “I know the books will help to foster a love of reading in our Seedlings students (K-1) and will help our Wildflower students to develop their reading skills for years to come.”
The SD8 Innovative Learning Department recognizes the additional strains and stress on families this last year, particularly being sensitive to those transitioning into the school system for the first time and are wondering what to expect.
“We’re here to support our early learners and their families, hoping to give them the best start we can as they transition into our elementary schools,” says Ross.
The Ministry of Education has expanded its mandate of lifelong learning to support the early years from birth to age eight. Research strongly supports that offering children a wide range of quality experiences during the early years (0-8) can help children become their best – physically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally.