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Project Profile: Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary

by | Jan 18, 2023

“Every child is a gift and we gather to celebrate them.”

These are the guiding words that shape Gifts & Gatherings, a series of early learning opportunities as part of the “Ready, Set, Learn” programming for families in School District 35, Langley. This series is influenced by the Kwantlen 7 Laws of Life. Designers Amanda Slade and Sam Collie created Gifts and Gatherings to embrace children as gifts and celebrate their uniqueness. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in playful activities designed for all ages.

Natural Pod had the honour to equip the early learning space at the Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary in Langley which is one of the locations the “Gifts & Gatherings” series are held. The school is named after now-retired educator Donna Gabriel Robins, who led the Aboriginal program at Langley Schools for 26 years, focusing on respect, belonging, connection, and culture within the school community. It is the location of an early learning area that includes, daycare, preschool, out-of-school care, StrongStart and a Welcome Centre.

Inclusivity. With its focus on supporting community building through honouring children, the “Gifts & Gatherings” program invites families or caregivers with children birth to five years of age to join the inclusive atmosphere. The program embraces inclusivity across the board to learn about other cultures and to work towards Truth + Reconciliation.

Play + Nature. The play-based program focuses specifically on using natural elements and the many shared stories of the Indigenous community. A cedar tree helps to introduce the young learners to the cycle of life: Loose parts of cedar wood show the young learners how all parts of the tree can be used, and even when a tree falls, it is still giving life to insects, canoes can be made, and longhouses built. Within the program, the educators inspire parents to support building the early learners’ confidence through using examples of the seasons and animals. Bears in hibernation or butterflies in cocoons illustrate the children’s own growth happening inside, even if it can’t be seen from the outside.

Connections + Community. “Many of the friendships created through the program continue outside of the schools, which is very rewarding to see and experience the impact of creating community,” explains Sam Collie. The program brought many families, educators, and the wider school community together. “We are looking forward to seeing the impact we can make working holistically with families over time in a program that has such a positive and joyful energy,” summarizes Amanda Slade. In addition, Amanda pointed out that the flexibility of the Natural Pod furniture elevates the program, as it can be moved around to support many different aspects of play and learning. And further, that “the natural aspect of the furniture is very calming, and it offers continuity for children, within the early learning space at Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary.

Creating a space inspired by nature, that allows the young learner’s curiosity to flourish, can be as simple as bringing elements of nature inside or through foundational furniture items that showcase the children and their gifts as the true focal points of the learning experience.

The “Gifts and Gatherings” program is open to all families within the Langley school district at no cost. Find out more here.