I’m two weeks into my new position as the new Communications Coordinator for Compass, and I finally got out to my first program visit. I visited the Peterborough centre, and the calm and loving environment is what struck me first and it was so neat to see the Reggio Emilia pedagogy that I’ve been reading about, in action. The rooms were all so warm, inviting and thoughtfully arranged. Cloth and soft lighting surrounded the edges of the rooms, making you feel kind of like you were walking into a big hug. Loose parts, like baskets of pine cones, colourful blocks, old corks and tape rolls, disks of wood, and different sized balls invited you to engage in your surroundings, but also the fact that everything had a place helped to settle the mind. I was so impressed that every single educator I met throughout the day was passionate, caring and obviously put the children at the centre of every one of their decisions. There was a light box in the infant room, which the educator explained they had lifted off the floor, because the babies preferred being able to stand up and hold onto it while they explored with light and shapes, rather than when they had to sit at it.
It was interesting to see the interactions of the parents who were bringing their infants for the first time. Watching them made me realize this was not only a transition for the babies, but also for them. After spending months with their newborn, likely without much time away from them, they were now leaving their precious little one with perfect strangers! I saw how quickly the educators earned the trust of new parents with their caring compassion, and how at ease most seemed after a visit or two with their child. Many children spend partial days at first, warming up and building a bond with their primary caregiver, and adjusting to being away from their parents. For some it’s easier, finding the social interaction, and all of the new spaces and experiences to capture their imaginations, and for others it was a more difficult transition. It was so beautiful to watch one father dropping off his son, and seeing the deep love as he stared at him after putting him into the arms of the educator. He seemed happy and comfortable, knowing his son was in excellent, capable care.
I watched interactions between babies, as they began to explore relationships with their peers, as well as slightly more risky play of the older ones, testing their boundaries, and strength, dangling from a rope. One group was starting to learn about their names and the alphabet, getting to explore their ‘special letters’ (the first letter of their name) first by pointing to it on their cubby hole basket, and then on a special wall their educator had made with the letter and their photo, which really engaged them. They continued the lesson over in their classroom where the alphabet was displayed along a wall, building their comfort and developing recognition that some hadn’t yet explored. The creativity, adaptability and warmth throughout the morning warmed my heart, knowing that I’ve joined a very special organization.
I look forward to sharing more of my reflections with you in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Hanah Howlett McFarlane
Communications Coordinator, Compass Early Learning & Care