The spirit of spring is alive in the Glebe Cooperative Nursery School

Teacher Kim Unsworth leads a virtual teddy bear picnic. Preschooler Hazel “brought” the melon! Photo: Kim Unsworth
William enjoys his teachers’ suggestion to paint eggs with shaving cream and food colouring. His little brother Victor looks on curiously. Photo by: Taylor Thompson

By Genna Woolston

Although the Glebe Cooperative Nursery School is closed until the end of the school year, the spirit of spring is still alive in our little community. The City of Ottawa closed its facilities until at least June 30, meaning our classroom at the Glebe Community Centre will not reopen until fall at the earliest. While this brought heavy hearts to our children, families and teachers, we are finding inventive ways to stay connected.

Normally this time of year, the children anticipate the day their bears come out of hibernation. In the fall, they put a group of stuffed animals into a hammock hung above their classroom. During this activity, they learned about biology and seasonality. But it was also a creative way for the teachers to maintain a comfortable noise level in the classroom – when things get too loud, as they inevitably do in a nursery school, the teachers whisper, “shhh, remember the bears are sleeping.”

It’s an annual tradition to wake up the stuffed bears in the spring. This normally involves a pajama party accompanied by fun activities like making breakfast together or reading stories. But this year is nothing like normal. So instead of waking the bears up in the classroom, the school continued this tradition virtually. Teachers recorded videos of themselves leading a teddy bear picnic. My daughter Madeleine laughed out loud and jumped up and down when her teacher, Kim Unsworth, pretended Madeleine brought a sandwich to the picnic.

The teachers have also been keeping up with story time online, by sending videos of themselves reading their favourite books from home. With libraries closed, this has been a great way to diversify our reading and bring new ideas into our homes. I’m sure I don’t speak for just myself when I say that these small moments have been helpful while parenting fulltime without childcare options. Our teachers’ care for our children and support for our families is continuing to shine during these difficult times. On behalf of the school’s members, I thank them for that.

The teachers are also distributing craft and game ideas that families can do while their children are at home. A popular activity in April was adding food colouring to shaving cream and using the fluffy, swirled paint to decorate eggs. “Not only is this activity a lot of fun, sensory activities like these stimulate children’s tactile senses and help them learn to use their senses for investigation,” explains Helen Brydges, the head teacher and director.

Another popular activity suggested by the teachers was scavenger hunts. From finding something that crawls to something that smells good, these scavenger hunts have encouraged the children to take a closer look at the world around them.

Families have also been sharing pictures of their children doing these activities. Seeing William’s hands covered in shaving cream paint, for example, brings smiles to our faces. By sharing photos, we are helping the children stay connected in these times of social distancing.

This time of year, the school is usually busy planning and promoting its annual Spring Fling, a family-friendly fundraiser that is open to the public. Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel it due to the pandemic. However, the children were still able to get together virtually and enjoy some singing and dancing. Our friend Paddy Stewart organized a Zoom concert, and more than 20 children joined in. This built on the intergenerational singsong that Paddy had been hosting for our preschoolers and residents at the Glebe Centre long-term care home. We are thankful that Paddy is finding ways to continue sharing his enthusiasm for music with our children.

A big thank you also goes out to the Easter Bunny whose essential work kept alive the dreams of Easter egg hunts this year. Before the school shut down, we sold Purdys chocolates as a spring fundraiser. The Easter Bunny generously dropped off eggs on the porches of families in self-isolation. That sense of community reinforces what a special place the Glebe Cooperative Nursery School is.

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

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