When the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) at Skagit Valley College (SVC) suspended site-based programs in March 2020 due to COVID-19, staff immediately set to work figuring out how to continue providing meaningful services to enrolled children and families.
By March 23, staff began recording and posting videos on YouTube, reinforcing concepts and activities children had experienced in their on-site programs and extending those experiences toward new learning by engaging children and families together.
Teachers practiced sign language, made pizza, engaged children with puppets, made edible playdough, grew crystals, made bath paints, met animals on their farm and simply greeted children to let them know how much they missed them. The highly-engaging videos feature warm, caring teachers sharing science, engineering and language activities. They include songs, stories and games that provide a meaningful connection in an uncertain time.
Families responded with heart-felt appreciation…
“Please share with the teacher that each one of their contributions has brightened our days and put a smile on Mariana's face. It is very difficult to create a rhythm and to help especially our preschool age daughter understand what's happened to our world. We have taken these videos and incorporated them into our routine. It has helped with the transition! I am so grateful for all your efforts! THANK YOU, thank you, thank you!"
…and some great ideas for extending support:
“Is it possible that in the future we could create a platform for the children to either share pictures with each other or to video call? A little social interaction goes a long way!”
Recognizing that interaction among children and families could be a valuable strategy to support learning, build resilience and strengthen their community, SVC ECEAP staff began utilizing their existing class Facebook pages as a platform to interact. Parents soon started posting photos and comments, including examples of children engaged in activities, practicing literacy and math skills, interacting (virtually) with other families, sharing notes of appreciation for their teachers, and making connections with each other. After several Zoom sessions together, one mom shared this comment about a connection her daughters felt to another child in their class:
“My girls love your name. They say it all the time now. You have friends everywhere.”
Over the next two months, SVC’s modified services expanded with the feedback from the parents and innovative ideas from the teachers. To support interaction among students, staff invited families to story time on Zoom so that children could see each other and interact in real time. When Coupeville ECEAP held its final story time for the year, a parent sent this email:
“Wow, that came fast! We’ll be sad to see this school year go and watching Blair learn and grow with his class. The story time has been great and Zoom was a terrific way to connect peers and teachers. [We] are grateful for your dedication and willingness to keep connecting with the kids…I hope Coupeville ECEAP (Central Whidbey) continues to thrive and grow wonderful kids and setting them up for success.”
SVC ECEAP sites have modeled how to respond to adversity and build resilience with ingenuity, a focus on family strengths and unflinching commitment to children and families in their care. One parent’s comment sums up the powerful impact of the North Whidbey ECEAP team:
“We are going to miss our friends but we are so blessed to have been taught by the best!! Kindergarten HERE WE COME!!”