Schools may be closed across the country, but many Sheridan educators and alumni are working to make sure kids at home still have access to activities and learning tools.
Kathleen Currie (Early Childhood Education ‘95), Supervisor with the Sheridan College Child Care Centre, said that when her team heard the Centre would be temporarily shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the children were their first concern. The educators – including seven Sheridan alumni – worried that the children would be confused about why they couldn’t see their friends and wanted to help the parents maintain a bit of consistency with their children’ daily routines.
Currie gave her staff creative control over how they would communicate with families. Since the Centre’s closure on March 14, the team has been using Storypark – an education app – to post daily encouragements, resources, and videos for the children to have a chance to interact with their educators.
One of the Centre’s educators, Michelle Candelaria (Early Childhood Education ’06) has been posting videos of music circles that include familiar songs and activities. Candelaria also posts videos that feature the Centre’s weekly routines, such as Mindful Monday – a weekly activity that includes breathing and yoga.
“In this time of uncertainty, it’s vital that children feel connected and supported by all the important people in their lives, including the educators that care for them daily,” says Currie. “By offering the families an opportunity to connect with their educators in a virtual way, it gives their children a sense of well-being and a feeling of belonging.”
Scholastic shutdowns coupled with instruction to practise social distancing has meant Canadian parents are suddenly navigating how to work from home with their children by their side.
In an effort to give kids something exciting to look forward to, Crafty Creatures — owned by Leanne Dowdall (Illustration ’03) — has introduced “Keep ‘em Busy” boxes. Dowdall packages and delivers each box, which feature creative crafts and activity ideas, along with links to YouTube video tutorials for creating each craft. To date, Dowdall has sold over 500 boxes, and has begun shipping orders across Canada.
Elsewhere, Canadian cartoonist Mike Cope (Art Fundamentals ’98) recognized he could put his skills as an art educator to good use for all the children who are currently out of school.
In the online series Draw Along, Cope posts short, fun, cartoon-drawing exercises on his YouTube channel along with accompanying activity pages. Geared at children from preschool up to grade 3 Cope hopes to help children develop and practise their own creativity and fine motor skills. Cope’s uncle has been composing and performing music tracks for the episodes, and Cope also works with his cousins to create Dessiner Avec Moi – a French translation of the series.
“The feedback has been inspiring and heartwarming. I’ve received photos from parents and even a video from a mother in India whose young one created a story with their drawings,” says Cope.
With libraries closed, children’s authors and entertainers are also stepping up to bring virtual experiences to their young audience.
Music theatre grads Lisa Sonshine and Brock Burford – the children’s entertainers behind the popular duo Sonshine & Broccoli – performed free live shows on their Instagram and Facebook pages, featuring songs that reinforce concepts such as kindness, respect, literacy and safety issues.
The Most Magnificent Thing author Ashley Spires (Advanced Illustration ’06) posted a YouTube video where she read her book The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, with the help of her cats-turned-comic characters Scott and Tess.
Celia Krempien (Illustration ’12), the writer and illustrator of Sunny, and Ashlyn Anstee (Animation ’11), writer and illustrator of Hedgehog!, also held virtual story times where they read their books aloud online.
Both authors created printable activity booklets based on their books featuring colouring pages, word finds, and mazes, and made them available online for free.
Pictured at top of page: A still from the Draw Along series by alumnus Mike Cope.
Written by: Meagan Kashty, Editor, Advancement Communications