The life of a preschooler can be pretty busy: making mug cakes, doing yoga, identifying a favourite author, listening to classical music, growing vegetables from scraps, drawing, even participating in a spa day and not to forget, attending a tea party!

That is, if the preschooler is attending ISSofBC’s first online LINC Preschool cohort to operate during COVID-19. “This program was a life-saver for Elena,” said mom Mariela, a CLB-8 student in ISSofBC’s LINC program, of the preschool experience of her daughter. “I’m pretty sure for her mental health, and mine as well, these classes represent our connection with the outside world and others. We are really happy with the format of the classes. We appreciate all the efforts made by the teachers to provide such a nice environment for kids and parents.”

Mariela is not the only one raving about ISSofBC’s LINC Preschool program. Through its innovative offerings and features, the program has earned glowing praise from preschool communities as well as early childhood education trainers. The program has hosted numerous sit-in sessions by other preschool educators and is slated to facilitate a four-hour workshop at the Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre this coming December.

When COVID-19 forced the closure of in-person services, ISSofBC LINC pre-school manager Ana Delgado and her teammates Helen Hart, Maria Benilda Abina and Christina Fasciglione, had to quickly build a program that still aligned with the in-person preschool and its focus on child-led learning. “We wanted to offer a space where families could still socialize with one another and programming that would meet their needs during isolation,” said Ana.

In addition to designing learning sessions that were engaging and interactive for the children, Ana’s team also coordinated and distributed supply boxes for each family to ensure access to similar materials, and continued producing documentation to make the learning visible for the families and for the staff’s “journey as educators.”

“It was unlike any other ECE learning experience I have had thus far,” said practicum student Tara Bowman, adding, “the program that Ana and the team have developed is really incredible… the almost 100% attendance rate attest to the value it provides the children and families it serves.”

“It was so inspiring and heartwarming to observe children’s smiley faces while chatting with friends and educators, sharing their experiences and important things from their personal life, showing their artwork, favourite books and toys, pets, etc.” said ECE instructor Aleksandra Maric. “It was also impossible not to notice how families were invested and included in their children’s learning.”

One-on-one mini celebrations last August marked the end of another year for Elena and her classmates, some of whom have started kindergarten. Last month, Ana and her team welcomed new and returning students, building a supportive, creative and unforgettable online learning experience for another group of preschoolers and their families during COVID-19.