By Danielle Castonzo
In mid-March, Christopher House’s Infant & Pre-Schools closed as a result of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order and the ongoing danger of COVID-19.
This has been a challenge for pre-school educators, who rely on play-based learning and making in-person connections with students more than any other age. Christopher House families—100% of whom are low-income—face additional challenges, such as limited access to Internet and technology and stressors at home such as unemployment, food or housing insecurity, and anxiety about the unpredictable future ahead.
However, Christopher House’s innovative Infant & Pre-School has continued offering weekly programming, recording weekly educational videos for scholars and resources for parents to facilitate at-home learning.
“While we know that young children learn best through hands-on learning experiences, we are working to partner now, more so than ever with parents as children’s first teachers,” said Sarah Collentine, Associate Director of Early Childhood.
Facilitating pre-school education during an unprecedented stay-at-home order is no easy feat, but Christopher House continues to prepare nearly 400 low-income scholars for kindergarten at home through the following methods:
- Christopher House teachers record weekly math, literacy, and story time videos. This allows scholars to continue building skills needed for kindergarten readiness, see familiar faces, and maintain a routine through COVID-19. Christopher House’s Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction—a newly created position—has assembled a best practices toolkit and calendar for creating e-learning videos for all Infant & Pre-School classrooms. The videos are uploaded and shared with families each Monday.
- Christopher House has provided resources for parents to facilitate their child’s at-home learning. In mid-March, every Infant & Pre-School scholar was mailed 3 weeks of enrichment activities to complete at home. Additionally, ReadyRosie, a web-based product of Teaching Strategies and The Creative Curriculum, has been shared with families and provides at-home activities and learning games—in English and Spanish—for infants through kindergarteners.
- Christopher House continues to provide supports for diverse learners and their parents. Our Diverse Learners Specialist is connecting with all paraprofessionals to create specific videos for diverse learners and their parents, who are struggling with at-home learning. They are helping parents create a visual schedule, establish consistency, and discuss COVID-19 with their children.
- Professional development for Infant & Pre-School teachers continues virtually. The Infant & Pre-Schools first Virtual In-Service will be held in May to provide additional support and professional development during this time. In addition, Christopher House’s social workers will facilitate a workshop for teachers on mental health and wellness. Additionally, the Infant & Pre-School’s STEAM Learning Communities are now being held virtually.
“We are so proud of teacher’s and leadership’s flexibility, creativity and commitment to excellence as we rapidly pivoted the way we educate and support young children and families,” said Sarah. “While none of this work is easy or straightforward, it is inspiring to be part of team of educators who care so much and are tirelessly dedicated to engaging with their young students—through whatever means possible.”