“You all always go above and beyond for my son, especially during this difficult time. It has made such a difference in his life and we appreciate it more than you know.”
That’s just some of the feedback Karen McClure-Richard, director of Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center has received from parents about their new Learning Bags. The Early Learning Center is a specialized preschool for children with significant disabilities; providing critical early intervention and consistent skill building.
Since March, Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center has been focused on distance learning to keep students and families connected through a virtual classroom. In May, they added to their curriculum by delivering Learning Bags with everything families need for the week.
“In the bags are materials we are using for virtual classroom Zoom sessions,” Karen explained. “Last week we made bird feeders and this week we learned how to plant seeds. The intent is to provide activities families can continue after the Zoom session ends. For example, kids can hang their bird feeder in a tree, then wait and watch for birds. They can also see how the tomato seeds they planted grow and flower as they care for them over time.”
Throughout the week, the curriculum expands on what they’ve learned. From watching video of a mother bird in a nest, to discovering different bird calls to reading a book about a bird family, each activity ties back to a learning objective that builds life skills for children and their families.
“Next week our theme is Families and Feelings,” Karen continued. “The objective is to help children understand how we’re all having a lot of different feelings right now and how we can express those feelings.”
The Learning Bag contains gingerbread men cookie inspired shapes of big people and little people for the kids to cut out and decorate.
“In the Zoom session, we’ll walk them through how to cut out and decorate the number of people who are in their family. Then, during the week, we’ll talk about how every family is different, read books about families and discover ways to celebrate differences and everyone who is part our unique family. We’ll also do a virtual Show and Tell so kids can tell us all about their pet or favorite stuffed animal.”
After each Zoom session, the Early Learning Center educators send a summary email that includes links to everything offered in that day’s lesson; giving parents additional tools to use at their own pace at home.
“An unexpected benefit of distance learning is we have the opportunity to work with parents and their children at the same time,” said Karen. “In our virtual sessions, we’re coaching parents how their child learns through play and helping them to think about learning in a different way. We provide simple, every day activities they can repeat at home that develop and carry over skills and encourage development in their child.”