While walking out of Rogers stadium, Ethan asked me “Did we go to the game because of me?”, to which I replied, “We sure did Ethan.” That shared moment said it all.
“There is now an explosion of knowledge that tells us that healthy development cannot happen without good relationships between children and the important people in their lives.” Dr. Jean Clinton
The success of a summer school age program ultimately lies within our openness to listen, connect and reflect with children. These essential components are the very essence to living wholeheartedly with school age children.
The Courtice school age team met back in May to consider what past summer experiences brought good memories? What were the children’s hopes and dreams for this summer? What values and practices would support well-being, joyful days, expression and opportunities for voices to be honoured?
We asked the children to think deeply about past summer experiences. They reminisced about the feelings of freedom and adventure that the creek days or being in the forest offered them. They recalled water-play and bike riding as fun times, as well as special events like carnivals, car washes, board games and dramatic areas where store front and baby daycare became the focus for weeks on end.
But there was always one request which came up every year: to go to a Jays’ game, and it was usually prompted by a small group of boys. This year we were again met with the request by Ethan, our oldest child in our school age program. We thought about this request and we wondered: could we? Might this be the year to make this request a priority? We were compelled to make this happen. As the summer neared we had exhausted a number of leads. We had eight tickets, which brought us closer to honouring the wish of one child. We decided that this was so important we would purchase another eight, even though it was not in our budget.
Our day began by taking a bus to the train station, then hopping on a train that took us right into the heart of downtown Toronto. Although our modes of transportation were fun adventures on their own, we hardly could contain our excitement once we stepped inside the stadium. It seemed to take forever and now we were finally here at the Rogers Centre. Although our seats were really high up, in the 500 level, the children kept saying we had the best seats ever. We were on the left field foul line, where all of the action was. Although the Jays lost that day, we all enjoyed the adventure. This experience will live forever with us as educators and, hopefully, it will be a memory the children will cherish as well.
Later, I connected with Ethan and asked him to reflect on that day; this is what he had to say.
“I’ve been asking to go to the Jays game every summer camp, I think for 3 years now. When we asked about going we used to hear, ‘We’ll think about it.’, and then we wouldn’t go. Going to the Jays’ game was the best part of my summer, because I remember the week before one of our teachers said there’s going to be a surprise this summer and I knew right away we were going. Their decision to go made me feel that I was listened to; the teachers knew me and knew how much I have wanted to do this. I remember my friends sitting beside me and cheering, I remember the freedom of running down the 5oo section ramp at full speed and getting to the bottom and cheering others on.”
Ethan’s story defines for all of us the meaning of a joyful day. It also reminds us that, sometimes, we need to find ways to set aside the barriers and make these kinds of experiences happen.
Ethan recently graduated from our school age program, but fortunately our program is located within the elementary school he still attends. I cannot express how much it means to me, and my fellow educators, when on his own accord, Ethan drops by to say “Hello” and “I miss it here.”
Norma Curtis, Pedagogical Team Leader, Compass ELC Bowmanville and Courtice Programs
To read previously posted Compass ELC Blogs, please click HERE