Port Alberni city council chambers looked a little different on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Rows of chairs had been replaced with toy boxes, building blocks and different craft supplies as part of a “pop-up play” event put on by the Alberni Valley Early Years Centre.
The Early Years Centre, located at EJ Dunn Elementary School, is a community space where families can connect with each other and with supports and services throughout the Alberni Valley. The pop-up plays, explained Early Years Centre coordinator Katherin Charbonneau, are an opportunity to bring this community space out to different locations.
“We want to connect with families before they’re entering the school system,” Charbonneau explained. “This is our way of going to the families.”
The pop-up plays are part of a pilot project funded by the Ministry of Education, which aims to strengthen the early years to kindergarten transitions. Plays have been held in different locations across the EJ Dunn catchment area, and Charbonneau hopes to expand the program to include outdoor plays in different parks across town once the weather is warmer. Toys, crafts and activities are available for children to play with, but the pop-up play is also a social opportunity for families.
“It’s an opportunity for families to meet and make connections with each other and service providers,” Charbonneau explained.
The pop-up plays have involved partnerships between School District 70, the City of Port Alberni and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Charbonneau said the goal is to “bring everyone together” in the community.
“That collaboration is key to this project,” she said.
Six school districts across the province are taking part in this pilot project. Each site received a $30,000 grant from the province, and the project will be funded again for another year.
“That’s great,” Charbonneau said. “We’ve got so much momentum and now we’ll be able to continue it.”