Project Profile: Suncrest Childcare Program
When it comes to supporting and building community, The Burnaby Neighbourhood House, based in British Columbia, Canada, has made its mission ‘to make neighborhoods better places to live.’ The volunteer-driven agency offers support to family members of all ages through a series of innovative programs created to meet the changing needs of the diverse population it serves.
Their School Age Childcare ‘learn-through-play’ Program operates from a few different locations; designed to encourage and support children to reach their potential through an environment that provides optimal social, emotional and intellectual growth. Through a wide range of activities and opportunities, the program also aims to reflect and enhance the cultural backgrounds and languages of the children in their care, fostering a deeper connection to their community.
The Natural Pod team had the pleasure of catching up with the Program Director, Sara Shaw, at the Suncrest School location of their School Age Childcare Program. Sara shared in greater depth the unique aspects of her work and relationship to being an educator.
- What inspired you to be an educator?
“I think it was from an early age, my brother had Cerebral Palsy so I often looked after him as I was growing up, as well as taking on other volunteer roles. I went on to coach a lot, either sports teams or additional leadership opportunities.”
- What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
“For me it’s seeing children come into their own, experiencing them discovering who they are, what their strengths and interests are, and what they enjoy. It’s also seeing the world through their eyes; children see the world in a completely different way, it’s through a more celebratory and un-bias lens.”
- What best describes the unique aspects of the program that you offer?
“Our program may be focused on out-of-school care, but because we’re part of a neighborhood house, we are part of a larger community that is a wrap-around for family support. Our added services are about connecting, belonging and engaging, for example, we have the ability to link grandparents to senior care, or new mothers to the support they may need, in addition to child-care.”
- How do you see education changing to meet the needs of children?
“I feel we are getting there, there is increasing focus on the benefits of child-centered learning. It’s not through a lack of will that teacher-centered learning isn’t being left behind, but it is easier to do in early learning environments. The traditional school system is harder to crack because it’s more entrenched, younger learning environments tend to receive more attention and so it’s easier to get to a place of individualized learning in that space. But I’m very hopeful that all education is moving in a positive direction.”
- Are your students involved in creating the learning environment?
“The children are very much involved in authoring their own learning spaces. They are given full rein of changing, moving, and shifting the furniture and manipulatives around as they wish. As educators, we often ask them ‘what would you like to see?’ The Natural Pod furniture acts as the foundation, the pieces are the children’s ‘palette to work with’, they can create and shift the environment to work for them.”
- What was your experience creating your learning environment(s) with Natural Pod?
“For us, it was the community of having the Natural Pod team’s vision & expertise around creating child-centered play and learning spaces. Having furniture that’s truly multi-purpose and collaborative is important – it’s open ended not static – a living thing in the environment that can be manipulated and re-purposed again and again.”
‘Suncrest Childcare provides an inclusive child care program that strives for healthy and optimal growth and development for all children. All children are recognized as unique individuals with a variety of strengths, needs, talents and interests. We believe that children learn through play, curiosity, experimentation and exploration. Developmentally appropriate programming and activities are provided that promote inclusion, multiculturalism and learning.’ ~ Suncrest School Age Childcare Program.
Below are photos of the beautiful space at the Suncrest Childcare Program.
Thank you to Sara and her team for their generous time and continual dedication to their work.