by Caroline Cook, Pacific Science Center (Polliwog Preschool)
Since mid-February, Washington State has been at the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. As safety guidelines change, we’re faced with an unexpected question: how can place-based, hands-on preschools adapt to meet community needs remotely?
Outdoor preschools have responded in a variety of ways. The program I lead, Polliwog Preschool, closed on the same day as our local public school district. Since then, my co-teachers and I have tried to engage our families by:
Making videos to send to our families. At first, the idea of creating educational videos was intimidating, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy! Cell-phone videos and free publishing software have come a long way in the past decade. Also, your videos don’t have to be perfect. Our students don’t care if the editing is choppy or the lighting is imperfect. Here are a few videos we made:Even as many local parks close, it’s still possible to get outside. I made this video walking in my neighborhood, adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Our families’ responses to the videos have been so heartwarming! Caregivers are always looking for more ideas to keep their kids entertained, and kids miss their teachers and school.
Hosting virtual classes. When someone first suggested this, I thought it sounded cheesy, but I was wrong! Our class typically does show-and-tell once per week, so during the closure, we’ve used Zoom to do it remotely. Seeing all of our friends and hearing what they’ve been doing has been so uplifting. For the best results, allow a few minutes at the beginning for everyone to troubleshoot and get used to the software. After that, it helps to use the “mute” button and take turns; otherwise, things end up even more chaotic than a normal preschool class.
Sharing premade resources: If you don’t have the capacity to make videos or host e-learning sessions, you could still send your families some of these awesome resources:
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, author of the beloved “Elephant and Piggy” books:
Virtual Storytime (and other events) from the King County Libraries:
Online kids’ yoga classes led by one of our students’ parents (donation-based)
Curiosity at Home from Pacific Science Center
Resources, Tips, and Tricks from PBS Kids
The New World of Nature-Based Education collection from the Natural Start Alliance
We’re lucky to be part of a community where everyone has access to the internet, and where families can make alternate childcare arrangements. I recognize that’s not true for everyone. How can we do a better job connecting with families who don’t have these resources? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
What other resources or ideas do you have to share? We'd love to hear them too!