Skidegate First Nation on Haida Gwaii BC, Connected Remotely. Children’s mental health remains a priority
As British Columbians get used to a new normal brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, child care providers like Susan Ellis knew she and her staff would have to find creative ways to provide comfort and care for the children who were no longer attending their centre in person.
Ellis is the manager of Skidegate Early Childhood Development Center, located in Skidegate First Nation on Haida Gwaii. When the pandemic first hit, the entire community went into lockdown to protect its Elders and residents.
“When I first brought up the idea of recording ourselves and posting it to our centre’s Facebook page, there was a little nervousness,” Ellis said. “I hate cameras myself, but had to lead by example.”
May is Child Care Month in B.C., and government is sharing stories like this one, recognizing the work of thousands of child care professionals throughout the province.
“After we first closed the centre, we delivered bagged lunches to families of the students in our Aboriginal Head Start Program,” Ellis said. “The next delivery was just before Easter and included chocolate, Easter crafts, books, a co-op gift card and some dress-up clothes. Almost immediately, we got lots of pictures on our Facebook page with the kids in their dress-up clothes.”
Ellis has continued to deliver “good food boxes” to families, but still wanted to do something to directly support the children.
“The kids were asking why they can’t come to daycare. Children may seem fine, but they’re trying to figure these things out. I wanted the children to be able to see and hear us and feel supported, so I asked our staff to each pick a day and post three things on our Facebook page. These can be isolation activities, reading stories, singing songs or just fun things to do. There are seven ECE/ECAs (early childhood educator/early childhood assistant) on staff and I had to go first. That’s how I ended up doing Mondays.
“Families make comments on the posts and the kids can watch as many times as they want. I’ve had a great deal of feedback from parents. The kids are saying, ‘I wanna see Sue or I wanna see Jenny or I wanna see Janine,’ and all they have to do is go to the Facebook page and press play.”
When the centre is operating, one of the advantages of living on Haida Gwaii is the natural beauty of the environment.
“We have two minivans,” Ellis said. “As soon as the weather is nice, we are never in the building.”
One of the ECEs creatively incorporated a field trip idea into one of her Facebook posts. “She filmed herself going to the beach and gathering sand, rocks, shells and seaweed into separate containers. She brought it all home and built a ‘beach in a box’ in her yard. The children saw it and did the same thing! It encouraged getting out and promoted fine and gross motor skills for the children through the activity.”
With her staff staying safely at home and Ellis the only one going into the office, she finds there is more administrative work and the days longer than usual. But she has found an effective way to care for her own mental health.
“After I’ve finished doing the paperwork and all the rest of the jobs for the day, I come home, sit in my chair and watch Marvel movies. I’ve seen them all, but now I’m watching them in order. I’ve got one more to go, and then Star Wars is up next.”
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