The StrongStart Program operates in over 300 schools throughout the province, seven of which are in School District 73, including Barriere and Clearwater. This early learning initiative is funded by the Ministry of Education. It is not like daycare where parents drop off the kids – the program is designed for both the child and the adult. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or caregivers can drop in anytime at a participating elementary school between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Monday to Friday, during the school year. StrongStart is a free program, and provides an opportunity for uninterrupted play between children and their caregivers, as well as a chance for the children to become comfortable in the school – getting used to the bells, the noise of many children in the halls, learning where the bathrooms are, and in general become used to the building and comfortable with staff and students. It also allows them to get used to the routine of school – the times for breaks and snacks, the times to play, and the times for learning crafts and other things. It is a play-based learning environment which provides many options, such as art, science, exploration and creativity, allowing the children to take risks and do a little problem solving and learning through discovery.
Once a month, Cindy Wilgosh and Cheryl Thomas from the Aboriginal Engagement Success By Six come to Barriere for drumming and storytelling with the kindergarten class. The children love going to the kindergarten room and this allows them to learn where this class is in the school, and in this way, when they finally start kindergarten, they already know where to go.
Jen Crosman, whose two daughters have already gone through the program and are now in elementary school, says, “I love the program. I had just moved to Barriere and it was a great way to meet other parents with kids around the same ages as mine.” Jen enjoyed it so much that, even though her children no longer attend, she still drops in to help out.
Colleen Tremblay had four of her five children go through the program, as well as bringing two nieces and two nephews. “It’s an awesome program,” she explained, “One of my girls was very timid initially, and this helped her get used to playing with other children. It’s also a great way for them to know where things are in the school for when they start kindergarten.” Colleen is still helping Tracy, running errands and helping prepare the healthy snacks.
Sarah Uhrich started her son in the program when he was six months old – he’s now in grade one. Sarah is currently attending with her daughter, who was been coming since she was born two years ago.
“She already knows where the classroom is and wants to come,” Sarah stated, “My son never used to like being without me around – hated being left with a babysitter – but by the time he was ready for kindergarten he wasn’t shy or scared anymore and had already made friends.”
If you have young children who will eventually be attending elementary school, consider dropping in and joining the StrongStart Program.
To bring your child and “drop in”, go to the Barriere Elementary School at 4475 Airfield Road and ask the front desk for direction to the StrongStart room, or you can call the school at 250- 672-9916. In Clearwater the StrongStart program takes place at Raft River Elementary, 801 Clearwater Village Road, call 250- 674-2218 for more information.