Learn how the Buffalo Zoo keeps the kids learning at home by connecting with parents using HiMama!
Q: How has the COVID outbreak affected your center?
A: The Buffalo Zoo Preschool will be closing for 2 weeks because of the outbreak and management has requested that staff work from home. This is all to be socially responsible and doing our part to control the spread in the community. Our priority is to have the children’s and the community’s best interest at hand.
Q: How have parents responded to the closure?
A: To be very honest, it’s a mix. As ECEs, it’s important for us to realize that some parents may be feeling really anxious and overwhelmed by the whole situation and need that little bit of support and reassurance that everything is going to be okay and they’re not in this alone. Our team has kept lines of communications really open for our community so we can support our families remotely and HiMama has been a huge part of that effort.
Instead of sending out a bunch of emails that could potentially get lost or become overwhelming, we kept all communications on the HiMama platform. This keeps things familiar and organized in one place.
We are also really fortunate that some parents in our community are lending their own voices to the mix and supporting other parents in all this. For example, we have one parent who wrote up a step-by-step guide on how to send their documentation notes for the activities that we’re sending home so that we can input it on our end and their kids don’t lose out on the programming that we had planned!
Here’s a snippet of her message to the rest of the parent community:
First, click on the image of the envelope on the bottom right hand side of the screen.
Next, press the green Compose button on the top right hand side of the screen.
Type in a ‘Subject’ and a ‘Message’ for Ms. Anna and then click on the ‘Choose File’ button to upload your photo.
Once your file is attached, press the ‘Send’ button and Ms. Anna will receive your message. – Superstar Parent
Q: Is the center implementing remote classes? If yes, how does this work and what tools are you using?
A: No, we are not implementing remote classes where everyone tunes in at the same time. Instead, we are keeping our process as familiar as possible to reduce the feeling of overwhelm.
To give you a better idea, every Friday, we send out the lesson plan for the next week so that parents will know what to expect. We usually do 6 activities a week. Parents will then use these lesson plans to run the planned activities at home with their children.
It has been amazing to see how our parent community is taking things in stride and using the lesson plans to work with their children. One parent even uses my name, “Miss Anna” as if I’m there in the “class” with them to set the tone of the activity to keep that familiarity aspect.
Because we’re using HiMama to communicate the activities and keep up with documenting the learning and development with pictures and notes and the appropriate domains, we’ve been able to handle the situation with minimal disruptions to our children’s learning.
It makes me very happy to see that we are really coming together as a community to face these challenging times together.
Q: Do you have advice for parents who work or who are feeling extra overwhelmed?
A: Every child and every parent is different and we encourage parents to reach out to us with questions if they feel stuck, anxious or overwhelmed. We also make the activities as easy and accessible as possible using simple household things and materials that parents can find easily. Try not to complicate things and go with the flow of the learning.
In my planning process, I try my best to keep things open ended like “read a book about Spring” which gives parents the flexibility to find something that they have on hand. Resources are also very helpful – we send out links to things like songs and activities to help as much as we can with the planning and minimize the feeling of being lost.
I always say that all you really need is a heavy dose of creativity and the kids will do the rest and have a lot of fun while they’re at it!
Another tip I have for parents who are feeling out of their element is to stick to a routine. Kids need structure to focus on their learning and if you can create and maintain it in the home environment, it will make working with them a lot easier.
Q: How about advice for other centers and educators going through the same challenges?
A: You need to think two steps ahead and be ready. Keep communication open with your parent community and identify champions amongst them. If you have a parent who can be a role model, empower them to speak to other parents.
Also, communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure that your parents know what is happening, where to access the activity plans and have their questions answered. Managing change and making sure that things are being communicated consistently is key to keeping the community engaged.
Sharing progress as a classroom is also great to maintain that sense of being “in this together.” That way, parents can also show their kiddos what their friends are doing with the same activities.
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