Almost nine years ago, the B.C. Government took its first steps into the world of pre-school programs with the pilot project StrongStart of which one was placed in Riverview elementary school under the guidance of early childhood educator Patty Apps.
“I recognized this was a new innovative approach to early learning and was happy to be in on the ground floor,” she said.
“We still follow the original mandate, however the program has grown both in the number of children participating and our resources. I believe it will continue to grow.”
Around the province 12 StrongStart programs were established to see how B.C. parents and caregivers would respond to such a program. Play-based early learning activities – including stories, music and art – at not cost to families, enabled this drop-in program to help prepare children for success in kindergarten.
Currently, there are more than 400 StrongStart programs running in British Columbia, five of which are located in Quesnel.
Since 2007, the first year StrongStart ran at Riverview elementary school, Apps says approximately 400 children have been through the program.
Red Bluff StrongStart began in 2008 and Bouchie Lake, Barlow Creek and Ecole Baker elementary schools’ StrongStart programs were established in 2010 all with equally impressive attendance.
With changes to the Quesnel School District, changes are also coming to the StrongStart program.
The biggest change is Riverview elementary school will no longer house one of the programs. Apps and all her resource materials are moving to the annex by Quesnel Junior School where she will have more space for her program. The StrongStart program room at Riverview will revert back to a regular classroom.
This change will take effect for the beginning of the 2016/2017 school year this September.
In addition to strong support from parents and caregivers, many educators also see the tremendous value in the StrongStart program.
Retired SD#28 principal Mike Adams had the opportunity to provide grandpa daycare to his then 18-month-old grandson. Although Adams knew about the program from his work with SD#28, he wasn’t sure if the program was offered on the island where he was looking after his grandson.
Fortunately, it was and Adams saw first-hand how his grandson flourished in the StrongStart program.
“My grandson called it ‘cool school,’” Adams said.
“You see children exploring and learning about their world. They have such an appetite for learning and StrongStart helps them with structure and routine while exploring the wonders of their world.”
He added kids who’ve done the StrongStart program have that initial success and maintain their success throughout their career.
“It’s also an opportunity for child and parent to bond in a positive learning experience and this also helps teach parents every experience can be a learning and positive experience.”
StrongStart accepts children from birth to five-years old and there’s no cost to families. The program is designed to include child and parent/caregiver so no drop offs are accepted. Each adult participant receives a brief parent handbook which outlines expectations and expected outcomes of the program. Each StrongStart program is delivered by a fully-trained early childhood educator and Patty Apps is the program coordinator for Quesnel.
Every effort is made to provide each child with a pleasant, enriched and safe experience.
Each child is different and each child’s needs are different and every effort is made to accommodate those needs in the StrongStart program.
For more details contact Quesnel School District or drop by the Annex by QJS in September once the program is up and running.