COVID-Care in the ELC
COVID-19 provided a challenge for the ELC as we reimagined how we could connect our learning community (onsite and offsite) and provide an authentic learning journey for the youngest children in our care.
Our early learning programs and pedagogy are guided by the VEYLDF, EYLF, ECA Code of Ethics, Child First, UN Rights of the Child, and the ELC philosophy as well as the PLC Vision Statement. Our practice is informed by the Reggio Emilia approach to learning which highlights relationships as a foundation for education.
As COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions took hold, we had to shift quickly to re adjust our educational programs to an online learning platform.
We created a program that we hoped was flexible, family friendly, authentic to the childhoods of our youngest learners at PLC and stimulating enough to uphold the rights of the children to a quality education at this stage of their lives. A program we hoped gave value to families and the important role they play in the lives of children as well as supporting them in understanding play as a tool for learning and to enjoy learning alongside their children.
Joy, happiness and wellbeing were also at the heart of our online program during this challenging time in people’s lives.
Our goal was to keep families and children connected to the ELC environment and to continue a sense of participation and collaboration amongst the community; educators, children and parents/caregivers, as we adapted the learning journey for our youngest children.
Teachers created an online publication; ELC Connect which included weekly topics for children’s ongoing learning experiences. Teachers pre-recorded experiences on Zoom based on topics each week. All educators, the ELC Cook and administration staff were involved in recording videos to share with children and families that supported connectedness and continuity of learning for the children. Recordings of the environment were included to uphold children’s sense of belonging and specialist classes were added each week with specialist teachers adapting their sessions to coincide with the topics of the week. This format was intended to be a flexible opt-in format so that families could work around their own work commitments and family obligations. It also catered to the nature of young children as they were not restricted to when they engaged with the experiences. Links to various experiences, websites, podcasts and programs were included. A parent section was central to this publication to give families tools for observing and understanding their child’s learning journey. An acknowledgement to country was part of every publication as we supported families in continuing some of the rituals and routines that are embedded in our practice at the ELC.
In Term 2 and Term 3, ELC Connect was published for offsite and onsite learning. The children of essential workers who were onsite worked through the same weekly topics and viewed the same recordings alongside staff at the ELC.
In Term 2, during stage 3 restrictions, the children were able to visit other areas of the school and invited junior and senior school staff and the boarding house students to a Bear Hunt. The theme of the first lockdown was ‘Going On a Bear Hunt’ with house and shop windows decorated with bears and this was extended to the PLC environment. During this time the ELC remained open and staff were on various leave arrangements. Onsite programs were combined which meant children and staff worked in a flexible way as we managed the changing times before us.
In Term 3, during stage 4 restrictions, we had a very small number of children allowed to attend and we used the Barra (toddler room) for our ELC program. Staff were divided into three teams and worked on a rotation basis throughout the weeks. ELC Connect continued throughout this time and the topics were embedded into the onsite learning program.
During this time we introduced live zoom meetings for each program during the last three weeks of term. This was organised in small groups for each program and gave teachers and children a chance to stay connected to their ELC environment and each other. Each teacher and room leader met with their children in three groups over three weeks. The IT department were instrumental and extremely adaptable, supportive and informative throughout the year and we would not have been able to provide the very high quality online learning programs without their immense support and commitment to our school.
Throughout Term 2 and 3 we continued to connect with families and sent home various items that related to the program and the idea of staying connected, continuing the strong and positive relationships with the learning community. The same items were sent to both offsite and onsite learners in order to continue the shared learning journey of all our children and families.
Love hearts with messages from teachers in each program were sent home. Father’s Day ties for children to create at home were delivered during the week of Father’s Day. A Spoonville invitation was sent during the last weeks of Term 3 so that all children and families would have something to share on their return to the ELC.
We also had many examples of children’s work emailed to the ELC and some children shared their Family Share Books which was one way we encouraged families to document their Covid Learning journey at home.
Amongst the many challenges of the year we have grown as a team and will take many learnings forward as we continue to develop our practice and pedagogy into the future. We have had an incredibly rewarding year despite the enormous challenges and disruptions to our lives.