The BC First Nations Head Start On-Reserve Program is a program funded by the First Nations Health Authority to enhance early childhood development, school readiness and overall family health and wellness for First Nations preschool children (birth to six years old) on reserve.
Head Start supports locally-controlled and designed early intervention strategies that provide First Nations children with opportunities to develop a positive sense of themselves, a desire for learning and successes to build upon.
Head Start recognizes and affirms that culture is a fundamental part of a child’s development and encourages each Head Start program to reflect the uniqueness of its First Nations community as it takes into account the emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual needs of its children.
All Head Start programs include six key components: culture and language, education, health promotion, nutrition, parent and family involvement and social support.
In Skidegate, we are lucky to have Aboriginal Early Childhood Educator Jenny Cross facilitating the Head Start program every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00am – 12:30pm. Jackie Casey is also always in attendance as the Haida Language Elder, and Shari Collinson is there to whip up a delicious meal for the children and their parents. If you go on a Monday, Shari will even send you home with a take-home lunch.
What makes the Skidegate Head Start special, is the amount of field trips (weather permitting and season permitting) they go on. In December, they visited the Haida Gwaii Hospital Long Term Care Facility and joined the Nunaays, Chinaays and Lullabies program that is put on by Northern Health and the CCRR. In my previous role at the Living and Learning School, we have also gone on field trips clam digging. One of the things that Auntie Jenny enjoys doing most with the parents and children is traditional food gathering. “I like that I can pass on traditional teachings. It’s important to pass on traditional teachings so that younger generations know how to food gather and make regalia”.
The Head Start program is always filled with exciting themes and ideas. Just check out their Facebook group “Skidegate Daycare/Headstart” and you’ll get updates of themes and photos to prove it too! This week features sunshiny crafts, medicine pouches, tropical jam making and a Hawaiian Luau! Last week, they had Paula Varnell and storyteller Janine Gibbons. In the past, they’ve done weaving, made jam, spruce pitch salve, the list is endless!
The Head Start Program is also unique in that there is a strong culture and language component. Auntie Jackie and Herb Jones have always been the Haida Language Elders. The Head Start program is an opportunity to teach the children, their parents and each other Haida language. For Auntie Jackie, Head Start is just one place where she can “pass on what [she] know[s]. In Haida, there aren’t too many fluent speakers. There isn’t too many of us. [Auntie Jackie] like[s] working with Jenny and passing on new words to her.”
The Skidegate Head Start Program is just one of the many programs that run out of the Skidegate Early Childhood Development Center. Next Newsletter, we will focus on the great programming put on by the Skidegate Daycare (same building, slightly different program). In the meantime, check out the great activities that Auntie Jenny, Auntie Jackie and Shari put on! Not only do the kids have a great time, but the parents do too!