EJ Dunn celebrates opening of new childcare spaces created through provincial grant

Port Alberni, BC

Ten new childcare spaces have been created at a daycare centre located at EJ Dunn Elementary School, doubling their capacity from 10 spaces to 20.

At a grand opening on Oct. 26 Early Learning Principal Stacey Manson said the new spaces, which includes the development of an outdoor playground, were possible through a $50,000 grant from the B.C. Ministry of Child and Family Development’s Childcare Rapid Renewal Fund.

The new spaces will add to services provided by the Family Hub, a centre located behind the preschool at EJ Dunn Elementary School.

According to the Pacific Rim Children and Families website, the Family Hub is a one-stop shop for supports and services for families. Offering a wide variety of supports for both children and parents, the Family Hub exists thanks to the support of both community partners and families.

“This is a welcoming second home for families to connect with each other and to community supports,” says the Pacific Rim Children and Families website.

In addition to the construction of the preschool outdoor play space, an intermediate play space was also constructed with funds raised by the school.

The rustic outdoor play space feature tires, small rock-climbing walls and other fitness and play equipment designed to allow children to explore and learn, rather than be told how to play with the equipment.

In addition to the playground equipment, which is enclosed by a chain link fence, there will be garden boxes. Some are already planted with native plants like blueberries thanks to a partnership with Colyn’s Nursery.

Next Spring, more garden boxes will be added. Students, under the guidance of Nuu-chah-nulth Education Worker Deborah Potter, will plant more native food plants along the fence line.

SD70 Trustee Pam Craig said the vision is to have plants climbing the fence, “to make it like a magical little playground.”

Carrie Nahorney is the manager for the Early Years program.

“This family hub is part of the school, but it is also part of the district,” she said.

More than 20 local partners have contributed to the success of the program.

Nahorney submitted the application for the provincial grant with a vision of an outdoor recreation area that will encourage children to be outside, learning as they play. The space, she said, is important for good mental health. It allows children to re-engage with the environment and the play equipment encourages them to use their imaginations.

As she spoke during the grand opening, a half dozen pre-schoolers, bundled up in brightly colored raingear, excitedly ran from piece-to-piece, stomping in puddles along the way and rejoicing in the heavy rain and strong bursts of wind.

Students from the school sang a song gifted to them from Tseshaht composer Aaron Watts. They sang the song in celebration of the new play spaces.

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