Have you ever made a painting float? Take a look at the magic here on Facebook, a fun post for some of Fairfield County's littlest learners, now home from a popular preschool.
You just need to draw a little figure on a plate with a dry eraser marker, pour water on it, then watch it float explains Sara Findlay on The Jesse Lee Day School Homeschool Ideas For Ridgefield Preschoolers, a public Facebook group which any preschool family may join.
The school also has a private group for its enrolled 125 children with learning and fun curriculum activities from its 21 teachers. The school is housed in a Tudor building behind the Methodist Church.
Jesse Lee closed the same day as Ridgefield Public Schools, on March 12. Since then teachers, parents and community members have flooded the public page with imaginative ways — everything from storytime to music to science experiments and nature to capture the curious minds of young children.
Kathy Carroll, executive director for the past 16 years, said among interesting items this week were posts by the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Woodcock Nature Center, and a local musician.
This is the longest period the school has closed in its 30-plus-year history. During Carroll's time there, there was an extended closure one time after an October blizzard famously remembered as "Snowtober.
"That was for two weeks," she recalled.
Jesse Lee has programs for twos, threes, fours and "transitional kindergarteners," an option for "parents who want to give their children "a gift of time" before entering kindergarten, mostly "'-ber' babies," children born in September to December.
Days before the March closure, Carroll and the 21-person staff anticipated homeschooling and worked feverishly to come up with ideas for their classrooms.
"We were told we would close on March 12 and the next day, March 13, we were closed. Before that I put together a book of activities and had it printed and handed it out to parents," she recounted.
"I love what I do. I miss it; it's fun," said Carroll. She sometime gets visits from former students now in high school but that won't happen this spring. There are plans in the works for a camp program but when that will take place is uncertain still.
"We do camp in the month of June and in the process of discussing if June can or won't happen. We'll do something in July or August for the ages we work with."
So far since closing a month ago parents have given great feedback, Carroll said. "Our parents have been so appreciative of my staff and what we're trying to do. Obviously this is unchartered water for everyone. We're testing different things. We've always had the secret Facebook pages, and we've always had these ideas for sharing class parties, show and tell, reminders, and things like that. Now our teachers are doing Zoom. They're not getting what their child is used to but students can get around 20 minutes a day of class time on Zoom."
Carroll said small children are probably confused about being out of school right now. "They don't have a good understanding of what's going" so she imagines the process is difficult especially for a three-year-old "not able to see their friends.
Carroll, who has three grown children, tries to imagine what it's like for parents, too. "Some of our parents have preschoolers but also are trying to homeschool elementary age children, and some have babies. Some also work as well at home."
Other disappointing measures, of course, have involved canceling some of the preschool's popular events like its Spring Fling, which usually features live farm animals and food trucks. In other ways, the remote classroom has allowed for new ideas to pop up.
"The Ridgefield Police Departments has provided a video of storytimes and the Ridgefield Fire Department gave a virtual tour of the firehouse.
In Stamford where Children's Learning Centers (CLC) of Fairfield County has various locations of preschool-to-kindergarten-age classrooms, teachers are also using social media and remote tools to connect with their students now home.
Mary Basso is the Director of our Child Development program, which is also state-subsidized. The schools — there are eight locations — closed March 12, but CLC teachers have connected through age-appropriate and project-based activities for children and their families.
"For instance, this week is the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children, a nonprofit) Week of the Young Child and our teachers have shared with families a list of these special days: Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday and Family Friday, along with suggested learning activities to coincide with each day," said Basso.
"Although our children are not attending, our teachers have been actively engaged with them and their families through weekly phone check-ins, asking, 'How are you doing?’ ‘What do you need?'"
Fun ideas for young families are also posted on CLC social media pages like this one on Facebook, and parents may also post fun ideas they are enjoying with their children. And a CLC YouTube channel features videos of teachers reading stories and leading activities.
A brand new program CLC launched this week is Project 26, which is for children of Stamford Health staff. The program is staffed by CLC teachers who are paid and volunteers. There are 26 spots for children ages infant to five.
CLC staff has also reached out to families to connect them with support services and information about food and resources if needed, said Basso.
A list of food and other resources in Stamford in COVID-19 may be found on the United Way of Western Connecticut website here.
Call CLC at 203-967-6960 or visit the website here for information about any of its programs.