At Glebe Cooperative Nursery School, cooperation is our middle name

Children in the preschool class work together on a collaborative fruit salad with the assistance of teacher Kim Unsworth.   Photo: Andrew Roberts

By Genna Woolston

In troubling times like these, cooperation is essential. This virtue is fundamental at the Glebe Cooperative Nursery School, where we start teaching it early. Cooperation is our middle name. Well okay, cooperative is also our middle name, but it’s 2020 and many of our students have two middle names as well!

Although our school is temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still cooperating to maintain the community that is so important to the children. Teachers are emailing resources to families for homeschooling. Through our secure email, they are also facilitating the sharing of photos of children playing at home.

When many people think of a cooperative nursery school, they think about how the adults work together to create a special learning environment for children. While the contributions of parents, guardians, caregivers and teachers are essential, I’d like to focus on how the children help to create a strong community space.

When I told my daughter Madeleine that we’d be writing a story about cooperation, she suggested we talk about clean-up time. With a few prompts, here are Madeleine’s own words to describe it:

“We work together to clean up. The song means to clean up, not to not clean up. We look around the classroom. My teachers say, ‘Is it clean?’ If it is, we go to story time. If it isn’t, we keep cleaning up.

“We started a paper link at the ceiling. If we clean up before the song ends, we get a link. Two or three weeks ago, we got a paper link and we got ice cream that day. Now we’re almost at the floor.”

What a great way to visualise the good things come when we work together.

The teachers have come up with many fun ways for the children to collaborate. On my duty day, I watched the kids doing a collaborative art project where they rolled paint-filled cars down a paper ramp. The speedy red cars mixed with blue ones to make long, crisscrossing paths of various shades. While there were a few extra trips to wash their hands, teacher Kim Unsworth said “if you’re not getting messy, you’re not doing something right

The preschool children also contribute to their community through Show & Share. Each day, a few are asked to bring something they want to share with their classmates. Madeleine tells me that Zachary once brought an excavator, and she was proud to share her stuffed bunny.

Another fun cooperative project this year was a community fruit salad. The children each brought their favourite fruit, and teachers helped them peel, scoop, cut, dump and mix them all together. The result was a colourful and nutritious snack that the children were proud of and happy to share.

Sharing food is commonplace at the school. Each family is responsible for bringing snack on their duty day. Last year, Madeleine requested we make grape muffins. Never having heard of such a thing, I wasn’t sure we’d find a recipe but, sure enough, the Internet has everything. I had to giggle when her classmate Hazel said, “I love grape muffins,” as if she eats them every day!

Families are also responsible for one volunteer position outside of the classroom. Some jobs are conducive to involving children. These duties include contributing to bake sales, making playdough for the classroom and ensuring the school has a fresh batch of laundered, reusable rags for cleaning. Other jobs include coordinating fundraising events, leading registration, organizing classroom logistics and communications. Of course, we are very grateful for our dedicated board of directors, which make sure our school runs well today and into the future.

Genna Woolston’s daughter, Madeleine, has been attending the Glebe Cooperative Nursery School since September 2018. They live in Old Ottawa South with partner and dad Andrew.

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