Welcoming environments. Energized students. Passionate instructors. When we arrive at any one of Arts Umbrella’s free, donor-funded or community partner programs, we’re immediately greeted by these three things. In this series, we’ll take you into the classroom, to discover the magic that happens in the Arts Umbrella community, beyond our core facilities.
Head Start at Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre Daycare
You’ve probably heard stories about dreams and passions that start small and blossom into something bigger. On a spring day that actually felt like spring, we stopped by Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre’s Daycare for the Head Start Art class. For the preschoolers, Arts Umbrella days are full of inspiring dance, drama, and art projects.
“Arts Umbrella gives the kids an appreciation for the grander things,” says Ray-Cam Daycare supervisor Jollean Kenan. “The variety of materials makes a big difference. There is always so much for them to interact with, whether it’s for art or drama or other classes.”
Today’s visit is during the last visual arts session of the year, but the kids at Ray-Mur and Ray-Cam Daycares have experienced drama and creative dance earlier in the program as well because Head Start operated operated for eight months annually. This is one of Arts Umbrella’s longest ongoing community programs, celebrating over a decade in Strathcona.
Arts Umbrella gives the kids an appreciation for the grander things. There is always so much for them to interact with, whether it’s for art or drama or other classes.
—Jollean Kenan, Ray-Cam Daycare Supervisor
Kenan, who’s been at Raycam for 30 years, has seen the impact of the program first-hand. “Quite a few of our kids have language issues,” she says, “but they’ll put on a cape and just start moving around. It’s so rewarding to watch them come out of their shells in that way.” The daycare offers art exercises in their regular programming, but Kenan says Arts Umbrella shows the kids something bigger, something that’s larger than life. “It gives them another outlook on life, that it’s not just contained in their small area here, but that there’s much more out there.”
The kids are abuzz with energy when we arrive in the morning. A few parents are still dropping their kids off. Instructors Jamie Hume and Nicola Sampson are busy prepping bright tubs of paint, mixing a veritable rainbow of hues. Other staff members are clearing a large space in the middle of the room so that the children will be able to spread out while they paint.
Story time calms everyone down, as the kids settle into a known rhythm around one of Ray-Cam’s daycare teachers. Jamie then sits down on the carpet alongside her youngest pupils. They know Jamie and listen excitedly as, today, she talks to them about gardens.
“All of the instructors are so attuned to the kids,” says Kenan, adding that Ray-Cam sees many students with speech language problems and behavior issues. “We give suggestions to Jamie and any of the other instructors [from dance and drama] and they take it on board right away. They hear what we say, and they do what they need to do to engage the kids.”
Today, the kids collaborate on some large-scale paintings of a garden. The finished pieces will hang in the yard out back, brightening their garden and outdoor play area.
Jamie shows them a few tips and tricks for painting flowers, grass, and other garden details, and then engages the group in a conversation to spark creative thinking. She asks them what flying objects they might find in a garden. Speaking over one another, the children eagerly shout suggestions. Jamie patiently tries to hear them out before hearing one child say, “ladybugs!” To ensure everyone has an opportunity to share their ideas, Jamie then asks the kids to raise their hands before speaking. Birds, butterflies, and bumblebees emerge from the little artists’ minds.
All of the instructors are so attuned to the kids. They hear what we say, and they do what they need to do to engage the kids.
—Jollean Kenan, Ray-Cam Daycare Supervisor
Jamie takes the kids through the steps of painting a flower in bright, beautiful colours, all while sharing a message of cooperation, creative freedom, and embracing yourself. “Everything affects our flowers, and our leaves, and our trees, and our grass,” says Jamie. “So we’re going to make each petal special, our own way.”
The painting session that followed was vibrant and fun, but also taught the kids about respect: asking to share paints, giving each other enough space to be creative, and collaborating on a big project.
In a beautiful moment with a particularly excited child, Jamie chose to allow him to express himself through his art. She dabbed the paint down just as energetically as him, smooshing the brush and paint into the board. The paint colours may have all mixed to a shade of brown, but the smile on the boy’s face was golden.
To show their appreciation for Arts Umbrella, the class made a thank-you card for Jamie and Nicola. As the instructors and students all gathered for a group photo, it was so evident that the impact of our community programs goes both ways. Jamie, Nicola, and the Arts Umbrella team make an impact in Strathcona, where these kids get access to high-quality supplies and artist-instructors. But the kids also make an impact on our lives, brightening our days and filling them with magic.
Together we’re building a stronger community and planting the seeds for the most magical future imaginable.
Head Start at Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre Daycare is generously supported by the West Coast Reduction/Diamond Foundation, Dana and John Montalbano, John Cassils and Nina Bains Cassils, and MFS Investment Management