StrongStart program on move in Comox Valley School District

School District 71 is one of only 10 districts in the province to have a mobile StrongStart program this year.

THE FIRST STRONGSTART session was a hit for Daniel Williams

THE FIRST STRONGSTART session was a hit for Daniel Williams

School District 71 is one of only 10 districts in the province to have a mobile StrongStart program this year.This means that, for the first time, some of the less-central schools in the Comox Valley will offer StrongStart, a free drop-in program for children from birth up to age five and their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and any other adult caregivers.The Comox Valley was one of 10 districts in the province awarded this outreach program to address outlying areas, explained Allan Douglas, School District 71’s director of elementary education.Facilitator Phylis Edgar, who has an early childhood and social work diploma, offers mobile StrongStart once a week at Denman Island Elmentary, Hornby Island Elementary, Miracle Beach Elementary, Aspen Park Elementary and Royston Elementary schools.StrongStart centres are open during the school year, and families are welcome to attend on an ongoing basis or a drop-in schedule.StrongStart centres are not designated as child care programs, and families and caregivers must be in attendance with their children.”The idea is the parent and child are here together,” said Douglas. “It’s a way for parents to network with everyone. It’s a way for us to build great relationships with the school. It’s a lovely way to help parents with some skills before they come to school. If this is the school they end up going to, they’re comfortable with it.”StrongStart is a drop-in program, and people can come in whatever time they want to and stay as long or as little as they want.Children, families and caregivers attending StrongStart centres can participate in organized sessions with story time, music and singing; take part in play-based activities; access crafts and puzzles; enjoy a healthy snack; learn about effective early learning and child guidance practices; play in the gym and meet and make connections with other families attending the centre.Edgar likes to give children a chance to play and be creative in her program.”I like to offer all the options for the creativity of the child so they can mostly learn through play, and I believe in learning through play,” she said.At recess, StrongStart has full use of the gym, and the caregivers and children can play games.”The schools are very accommodating,” said Douglas. “Each of the five schools have given us space like this. We call it ‘Travelling StrongStart,’ and it’s working really well.”Ted Williams of Royston brought his three-and-a-half-year-old son Daniel to StrongStart for the first time last Friday.Daniel’s sister is in Grade 1 at Royston Elementary School, and Williams went to the school as a child.Williams brought Daniel to StrongStart to give him a better start.Daniel has had seizures since he was 11 months old, and he had brain surgery last March, and Williams says they think he might be a little developmentally delayed.”We figure the more we expose him to, the more he’ll catch up,” he said. “We heard about this and thought we’d give it a try. Plus, he’ll be going to this school in a couple years.”Williams said the initial response to StrongStart was really good.”We had a warm welcome from Phylis and the others,” he said. “Daniel doesn’t seem to be as shy as usual.”For more information, contact Edgar at phylis.edgar@sd71.bc.ca.School District 71 also offers StrongStart programs every day at Brooklyn, Cumberland, Courtenay and Queneesh elementary schools.writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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