Strategic Plan Report: Early Learning – January 13, 2015

Strategic Plan Report: Early Learning – January 13, 2015

Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.” – Paula Poundstone

Background:

What happens in the early years is critical because just like language, many of these predispositions are time limited. Brain development doesn’t occur at a constant rate— there are prime times for acquiring different kinds of skills and knowledge and specific times when the brain is pruning out unused connections. Enriched environments and appropriate stimulation help ensure that a window of opportunity for developing a specific capacity will be optimized. The absence of appropriate stimulation within certain time frames may lead to the skill or ability being ‘pruned out’ from lack of use.

Discussion:

In order to support the strategic direction outlined in Strategy 1: Student Achievement “Supporting our Early Learning programs”, the district has an extensive series of programs that support children from birth through to the end of kindergarten

·      Children first experience our school district when their parents attend SPARK! (Supporting Parents on the Road to Kindergarten). Sessions are held for new parents three times each year until their children enter kindergarten. They are taught about early childhood development and how to best support their children’s learning.  We work collaboratively with Public Health in order to introduce parents to the SPARK! program during prenatal classes. 

·      The Imagination Library is a part of SPARK! This program ensures that children have access to literature by receiving, for free to the parents and due to generous community support, an age appropriate book each month in the mail. 

·      Families with children from newborn to five years old can drop-in to StrongStart Centres and meet with Early Learning Educators and community supports while playing and learning together with other children and families. StrongStart programs are open three hours/day on days when school is in session at Gibsons Elementary, Roberts Creek Elementary, Sechelt Early Learning Hub, Halfmoon Bay Elementary & Madeira Park Elementary

·      StrongStart Outreachis offered through the ‘WonderWheels’ Bus in locations from Langdale to Egmont.  TinyTown is a child-sized town, designed to support language and learning through a play-based approach.  It is located in the Sechelt Early Learning Hub right adjacent to the StrongStart room.

To support all readers in their learning throughout the year, the district runs the Summer WonderWheels Bookmobile. Students borrowed hundreds of books that are brought right to their neighbourhoods on a regular schedule throughout the summer through the support of the Early Childhood Educator.

Summer StrongStart runs at the Sechelt Early Years Hub and in Halfmoon Bay.

Saturday StrongStart also continues this year at the Sechelt Early Years Hub and in Roberts Creek. Parents are very appreciative of their increased access to these centres.

·      The Ready, Set, Learn sessions are designed for three year olds prior to the children entering kindergarten. These sessions are held in every elementary school in the district.

·      The KinderSPARK! Program welcomes families to Kindergarten.  Families attend a 90-minute session in a local school once a week for 12 weeks in the spring before Kindergarten entry.  The KinderSPARK! program continues to expand in our district, and is now offered in almost every elementary school.

·      District staff and community partners complete a comprehensive screening of our newest students in September of each year. The information is used to inform and support the classroom teacher and to inform further development of the kindergarten and prekindergarten programs.  The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is completed by all Kindergarten teachers every year.

·      All district students attend kindergarten on a full time basis. The program is successful and results in students having a higher level of literacy and numeracy skills allowing them to enter grade one as more confident and well-prepared learners.  The PALS (Parents as Literacy Supporters) program is implemented in kindergarten, and is designed to engage parents in their child’s reading journey.

·      The district is participating in the Ministry of Education initiative ‘Changing Results for Young Readers’, designed to increase the number of students who are successful readers through a collaborative, inquiry-based approach involving primary teachers.

·      A recent addition to this continuum of support to complete this cycle is SPARK! 10. All grade 10 students in the district develop an understanding of the uniqueness of this period. The students attend three in-class sessions and then apply their skills by working with the young children who attend Strong Start Early Learning Centres. Every graduating student on the Sunshine Coast will have an understanding of how to effectively support a growing child..

Highlights and Next Steps:

·      Developing the Early Years Hub in Gibsons, with the rebuilding of Gibsons Elementary and the Neighbourhood of Learning. 

·      Ensuring new day care centres in Gibsons and Sechelt are established to support young families.

·      The district is also very conscious of the importance of, “coordinating resources and relationships with other community agencies to support vulnerable students and families on the Sunshine Coast, and participating in plans and advocacy to address local poverty/ social issues. (Strategy 2, Relationship-Building). The Hub model will continues to move forward by offering integrated inter-ministerial agencies and supports.  On-site supports provide a 'one-stop shop' opportunity for families, and reduce barriers to accessing these supports. A coordinator has recently been engaged by the Halfmoon Bay community school and in partnership with our early learning department to facilitate these partnerships.

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