As part of a home learning project, Jennifer Anselmo, kindergarten teacher at Jaffray Elementary and Junior Secondary School, encouraged her students to write thoughtful thank you letters to community helpers.
Part of the kindergarten curriculum states that youngsters should learn about the people, places and events that contribute to the strength of local communities. While they typically learn about community helpers through field trips and other in person experiences, the pandemic required teachers to get creative. Seeing that her kindergartners, though young, felt the effects of cancellations of play dates, field trips, and graduation days, Anselmo wanted to create a project that contributed to her student’s sense of connectivity and education, while also thanking community helpers for keeping the Elk Valley safe.
“With the theme of superheroes on my mind, not only could I tie together our phonics lesson about super-e words, but I could also provide opportunities to learn about the real superheroes of our communities,” said Anselmo. “I wanted my kinders to know that there are some very extraordinary members of our local and expanded communities that have been working tirelessly trying to make their little worlds all better again.”
According to Anselmo, 10 of her 20 kindergartners participated in the optional assignment, studying a community helper of their choice by using an online library to listen to and read about community roles.
Students then made paper bag puppets to coincide with their selection, and wrote a letter of appreciation thanking them for their dedication throughout the pandemic. Though the letters were not given out to specific community members, the idea was to post them to social channels to extend the messages of thanks.
“Dear everyone that works in the hospital, thank you for helping the sick people and for going to work while I stayed safe at home,” read a letter written by youngster, Mya Tracey. “I hope COVID-19 goes away soon so I can give you a hug. Love Mya, flying hugs and kisses xo.”
Other letters thanked nurses, police officers, paramedics, and teachers.
“Dear doctors, thank you for keeping us healthy when the world is so sick,” read a letter written by a kindergartner named Lily Yadernuk.
On June 18, Anselmo also visited the homes of her incoming kindergartners to say hello and deliver them school supplies. Under normal circumstances, the school hosts a kindergarten orientation where incoming students are able to spend time in classrooms with their teachers, crafting, reading storybooks, and getting to ride the bus home. With COVID-19 regulations requiring alterations to the norm, Anselmo invited each of her 17 new students to meet her on the end of their driveways, where she gave them ‘kindergarten survival kits’. The kits included helium balloons, candy, school supplies, and a poem written by Anselmo and her daughter, Jayda.
“I wanted this year’s orientation theme to be all about Sea Turtles because even though they go out to sea, and swim in the great waters of life and experience, they always return back to the beach where they were born,”said Anselmo. “I wanted these new little ones to know that even though they might be a bit worried to leave home and join me in the big world of school, I promised them that the bus would always bring them back home to their family.”
Anselmo also hosted a Zoom class for her new students on June 19, where she gave them a tour of her classroom, made a sea turtle craft with them, and read One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies.
“After a phone conference with one of my kinders recently, I said to her at the close of our conversation, “Goodbye, I love you a million!” And she replied, “Oh, Mrs. Anselmo, I love you way more! I love you one hundred… and… eleven!” It was then that I knew 111 was a much bigger number than a million. These are the kind of things you can only learn in kindergarten,” said Anselmo.