Before the pandemic, the Early Childhood Center (ECC) at Brooklyn College served as a safe place where student parents and faculty members could leave their children while attending classes throughout the day. Once the college switched to remote learning, the ECC community had to leave their classrooms and stay home.
“It all happened very suddenly for us in March. We were never really told that one particular day would be the last day,” said Colleen Goddard, Educational Director at the ECC. “There was this heightened reactivity level that was deeply emotional for the parents, the children, and all of the staff,” said Goddard, who has been at the center for four years as a Childhood Development Specialist. Since most of her work focuses on determining what is developmentally appropriate for the children, Goddard wished that the transition was a bit more seamless.
“The teachers never really got a full goodbye or a full transition in person, which would have better prepared that child or family for a sort of ‘flawless transition’ into the virtual world,” she said.
ECC’s tuition-free virtual classes began last Monday, Sept. 21, and are accepting students on a rolling basis. Although the scope of classes has been limited to remote learning, “there are still incredibly interactive and engaging learning activities that the teachers have created for the children,” said Goddard.
The center is divided into four classrooms grouped by age: The Infants, Twos, Threes, and Fours. Lesson plans for each class provide both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments for children to thrive individually and in a team. Activities done in real time consist of meeting for story telling and show-and-tells over breakfast or free play. Pre-recorded asynchronous lessons include read-alongs, singing and dancing sessions, and various science experiments for the Pre-K group.
“It is a daycare in the sense that we take tremendously good care of the children during the day. But I think that that is a limited perspective from the four years that I’ve been here,” said Goddard. “The wealth of knowledge the teachers have and what they provide for the children is not only defined as care, but exceptional educational expertise.”
The teachers at the center rose to the occasion, maintaining connections with the students and keeping them engaged as much as possible. Samantha Baptiste, an educator and advocate for the ECC, indicated that the lack of social interaction was one of the main things that has changed at the center due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“They’re engaged to the best they can be,” said Baptiste. “We do have those one or two students who are not able to really absorb as much as we would like them to virtually. We definitely understand that. We don’t pressure parents and we try to keep it flexible to operate based on the needs of the child.”
With all of the adjustments that the pandemic has forced, the center continues its mission and aims to prepare the children with all of the necessary skills they need to excel in primary school and beyond. As a teacher of the “Fours” class, Baptiste expressed her love for the center not only as an educator but as a parent.
“The children gain so much. I truly see that there are teachers and staff who care and really put their all into their work. At ECC we go above and beyond to serve the families,” Baptiste said.