Port Clements youngsters will have plenty to talk about when a new ‘playschool’ starts in the mulitplex this fall.
Thanks to a grant from Success by Six, the pilot childcare program for one to five-year-olds will run Thursday and Friday mornings from November to April.
Working with them and with children at the long-running Queen Charlotte Child Care Center will be Sarah Pansino, a certified early childhood educator who comes to Haida Gwaii after running a community preschool on Bowen Island and training at the Toronto Waldorf School.
“Finding childcare, especially reliable, quality childcare, is difficult here,” says Alicia Embree, chair of the Queen Charlotte Child Care Center and coordinator for Haida Gwaii Child Care Resource and Referral.
Families in Port Clements have not had a licensed drop-off childcare since the parent-run Tiny Tots Preschool closed.
In Queen Charlotte, too, the 38-year Child Care Center had to change its business model recently to rely less on volunteers and fundraisers, and more on fees — fees that still cost less than babysitting and are subsidized for households with an income under $40,000 or a need for respite care.
In both communities, Embree said parents have done a great job running things for many years, but burnout is an issue.
“A lot of parents don’t have the time,” she said, adding that while many Haida Gwaii families used to have one stay-at-home parent with time to volunteer, that isn’t so common anymore.
Looking ahead, Embree said she is glad to have someone with Pansino’s training, which can be a big help to other islanders interested in teaching a preschool of three and four-year-olds, or a ‘playschool’ that includes infants and toddlers.
While islanders can start ECE training in a distance education course, Embree said they also need to do in-class sessions with a mentor — something Pansino has offered to do.
Speaking while getting ready to paint a more inviting colour on a grey-blue door at the QC Child Center, Pansino said she did her own ECE training the same way — she took an ECE distance course while she was already helping a certified preschool teacher on Bowen Island.
“That’s really my way of working,” said Pansino, adding that she did the same when teaching and training at the Toronto Waldorf School.
“You’re constantly reflecting on what you’re studying in class and what you’re doing.”
Before a friend invited her to supply teach at the Bowen Island preschool, Pansino was a camp counsellor, a recreation coordinator and youth-centre worker who mainly worked with children ages six to 16.
By the time she left Bowen Island a decade later, Pansino was running the preschool and loving the job—something she described as trying to instil a lifelong curiosity and desire to explore.
“I think we often oversimplify education — you learn all this information, and then you retain it, and now you’re all filled up with facts,” she said.
“But really, that’s not what learning’s about. That’s not what life’s about.”
At the Toronto Waldorf School, Pansino said she found a more balanced approach.
While the Queen Charlotte and Port Clements childcare programs are not becoming formal Waldorf programs, Pansino said that model, which goes beyond ABCs and 123s to emphasize hands-on activities and creative play, is what inspires her.
“For me, it’s a more holistic outlook on childhood,” she said.
“So it’s teaching not just to fill a vessel, but to really look at a child as a complete human being from the start.”
Located upstairs in the Queen Charlotte Community Hall, the Queen Charlotte Child Center will have its open house on Sept. 7. An open house for the new Port Clements pilot is scheduled for Oct. 27 in the multiplex.
To learn more or to register for either program, visit qcchildcenter.org or call 250-559-8338.