By Lucy Juneau
What was once the Carleton University Preschool, now the Rainbow Kidschool, is celebrating 50 years of operation this year.
It originated in the Department of Psychology in 1967 as part of the revolution of childcare. At that time, the school was a research laboratory for scholars in child psychology, facilitating and encouraging research in child development to provide the community-at-large with a model preschool.
The founders were pioneers who recognized the critical importance of early education to life-long learning. To this day, employees strive to lead the community in early childhood education.
The preschool moved in 1982 to its present location inside Lady Evelyn Alternative School in Old Ottawa East. The university donated all of the furniture and maintained its research ties with the preschool, which expanded its program to provide after-school care to kindergarten and school-aged children.
“After the move from the university we still had an affiliation,” said Denise Byrne, who worked at the preschool from 1982 to 1889 as a teacher and co-director. “We continued having university students come and observe the children in terms of development.”
Since its origins, the program prioritized the needs of children by creating an environment they can manipulate to make sense of the world and learn through play.
“Instead of a child fitting a program, we altered it to meet the needs of a child and their developmental growth,” said Bryne.
The school has many different accommodations that may not be offered elsewhere.
“It’s an alternative school,” said Louise Elliott, a member of Rainbow’s board of directors. “Many children who cannot be accommodated in regular school can be in Rainbow. There is one child who is deaf-blind. She loves the school.”
The school is constantly improving the field of child care.
“We are part of improving the early childhood education and development field, said board chair Lucianne Poole. “That’s what makes us different from other preschools. We’re participating and improving something that we specialize in; we have a vested interest in improving the field of early childhood education.”
The school is fully equipped with the best toys, equipment and role-play settings, including a collapsible bus that kids can pretend to drive and a full playhouse to make their own.
“It’s a really beautiful building,’’ said Elliott. “It has specially designed rooms that have all these inserting features with nooks and crannies for kids to play in and do different types of activities.’’
The facility works to ease the transition into formal education.
“The concept of early childhood education is basically a bridge between home and formal schooling,” said Poole. “It’s a home away from home and it’s a lot of fun for kids. It is a very welcoming and warm atmosphere. The staff really know their stuff. It’s almost like a fantasy world for kids.”
Poole put both her children in the preschool program. In fact, her son never wants to leave.
“He liked it so much he didn’t want to come home. He would cry when it came time to go home,” said Poole. “He only went three times a week, but he wanted to go every day.”
That’s not unusual. Some children want to go back to Rainbow once they’ve moved on to elementary school.
Many staff members have been working there from nine to 15 years.
For Jack Hanna, who put both his children in the program, the staff is what makes the school stand out.
“The primary thing is people are nice,” said Hanna. “The staff seem to genuinely love kids. That’s the culture and atmosphere that’s imbued into the place. The staff enjoy and respect children. It’s such a happy place for kids and this is not true about all places.
“I think it’s the best child care facility in this part of the solar system.”
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