Parent participation preschool in Queen’s Park hosts open house on Saturday

Nestled in amongst the trees in Queen’s Park is a preschool that has been educating the smallest citizens of New Westminster for decades. Almost 50 years ago, a group of New Westminster parents decided to come together and take an active part in their preschoolers’ education and thus began Queen’s Park Preschool (QPP).

The preschool has had many evolutions over the years. When QPP opened its doors in 1965 it cost only $12 a month to send a child to the Preschool and the Preschool had to have its own bus that would pick up the students for class, as at the time most moms didn’t drive. The parents who were part of this first year worked hard and became involved in charity work, and started a group called ‘Self Aid Never Ends’ this group eventually became the Fraserside Community Services Society. QPP has been participating in supporting the community of New Westminster ever since.
As part of its educational philosophy, QPP helps the preschoolers to understand that they are part of a much larger community. Annually each class participates in the Fraserside Community Services Adopt-a-Family program, the Preschool regularly donates needed items to Family Place, QPP provides scholarships to graduating students of New Westminster Secondary School and the Preschool brings in Practicum Students participating in Early Childhood Education.

This was my family’s first time through the Preschool. Many of the families my son is at school with have gone through QPP two, three, even four times! And for some families it is now the second generation going through the Preschool. My son is turning five this summer and will be off to ‘big boy school’ in September. Which has me looking back on my experience in being a part of a parent participation preschool, and quite truly I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I will be doing it again in two years when my daughter turns three!

I am going to miss the time I got to spend with my son at the school. All too soon he will not want his mom around, let alone play with him and his school buddies. When he was going through the three year old class I was working full time and the days that I was in the school were special for me and him. This year, as he has been through the four year old class I have been on maternity leave and again the days I spend with him at school have become even more important as they are treasured times for just the two of us that don’t involve his baby sister.

Another wonderful part of the Parent Participation program are the monthly educational sessions for the parents, which I have found to be incredibly helpful as a first time parent of a preschooler. Topics have covered everything from time management, the importance of laughter, sex education, and mental and physical development. These lectures really make you feel like everything is going to be okay, your child is normal and if you need help, help is really out there.

Inside the classroom, because QPP is Parent Participation and the parents are in the class to help with activities, art and play, the teachers are provided the opportunity to really teach to every child and give them the best start to an education. Whether they have additional needs or not, because there is so much help in the classroom, the teachers can focus on what each child needs each and every day.

There are two amazing teachers in each class. In the three year old class there are Barb and Eleanor. They could not be more suited to teaching three year olds. They are two very kind, nurturing, caring ladies who really help transition these new little students from being in the home, to being in a classroom for the first time. It is like going to school and having two more moms! I have watched them as they have helped the kids learn to share (some for the first time), use their language to express themselves whether they are sad, angry or happy, and bring the very shyest of children out of their shell so that they could find what they love to do and were comfortable in a room full of busy children their own age.

In the four year old class there are Jessica and Jenny and they are perfectly suited for teaching four years olds. They bring so much energy and excitement to this age group. Since the four years olds are comfortable with the school and at this age can adapt more easily, they instinctively have more energy and these two ladies know how to channel it into productive and imaginative play. They really show the preschoolers that school and learning is fun, it is really interesting and sometimes it can be very, very messy.

Queen’s Park Preschool with its rich history, amazing teachers, fantastic facility, play-based philosophy and gorgeous location is a perfect place to start your child’s lifelong love of learning. There is an Open House this coming Saturday, April 14, from 9:00am to 11:00am, come for a visit, meet the teachers and find out what PPP is all about!

There are still openings available in the 3 PM class for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Please contact the Preschool at 604.526.1153 or visit their website at www.qpps.ca for more information.

Queen’s Park Preschool offers two $500 scholarships to graduates of New Westminster Secondary School. If you are a graduating this year and are an alumni of Queen’s Park Preschool, or if you are graduating this year and are looking to enter the field of Early Childhood Education you may qualify for one of these scholarships. The application Deadline is the end of May. Please contact the Queen’s Park Preschool for applications or further information.

Strong Start a haven for preschoolers (and their mums)

A few times a week, I pack the kids across town from our home in the West End to Strong Start over at McBride Elementary in Sapperton. Wesley love, love, LOVES to go to “school” and I love, love, LOVE that it’s both free and fun for all of us.

Wesley at play in the StrongStart sandbox. Photo: Briana Tomkinson.
Wesley at play in the StrongStart sandbox. Photo: Briana Tomkinson.

Strong Start is a free, provincially funded, parent-participation preschool prep program for babies and children under five. It’s a great way for parents and caregivers to get the kids out of the house and socializing with other children while also getting preschoolers a small taste of school routine.

There are currently two Strong Start centres in New Westminster: McBride in Sapperton(9am-12pm Monday-Friday)  and Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Queensborough (9am-12pm Monday & Friday; Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 4-7pm). A third centre is planned to open in the West End at the end of March, at Connaught Heights Elementary (drop-in times haven’t yet been announced).

A typical Strong Start day begins and ends with free play in a room full of toys, art supplies, books and costumes. Sandwiched in the middle is a simple “school” routine: clean-up, snack, gym, and circle time.

I can’t say enough about how awesome it is. I can’t even pick a favourite activity. My son adores the free play, but I think the snack/gym/circle routine is really cool and good for him to experience.

The snacks are healthy and yummy, typically including fresh fruit pieces, cheerios and fishy crackers with water to drink. Gym is a lifesaver during the cold and rainy winter months. Parents and kids trek over to the school gymnasium and the little ones run wild with bouncy balls, hockey sticks, wiffle balls and hula hoops. And during circle time, Wesley not only gets to hear a story and play some silly circle games, but I also get to learn a few new tunes & tricks to deploy when he gets too squirrelly at home.

I also appreciate that the Strong Start teachers have no fear of messy activities. My son can choose to be up to his elbows in flour, mash shaving cream all over a table, shake glitter all over a picture, mush around a goopy cornstarch-powered paste or cut construction paper into teeny-tiny pieces – all things I’d been a little afraid to try at home!

Plus, while all this is going on, parents, grandparents and babysitters can enjoy coffee or tea and commiserate about the crazy things small children do. Of all the kid activities I’ve tried, Strong Start has been the best environment for meeting other local parents. The only downside is that the program is so good that it’s very popular (and therefore can get so busy that it can be overwhelming).

I’ve got to give the B.C. Government, our local school district and the others behind this program full props. It’s amazing, and I’m so happy to see it expanding here in New West. In my opinion, it would be a worthy addition to every neighbourhood school. Then, kids could actually attend the Strong Start at the school they will enter in kindergarten, which could go a long way to relieving kids’ (and parents’) anxiety on the first full day of school.