My son is almost three years old. Despite my love for Boston Outdoor Preschool Network (BOPN) at the Gardens at Elm Bank (my daughter attended last year), and my knowledge that spending hours outdoors every day is one of the best gifts we can give our kids, like most parents, I was nervous about sending him to school. He's a "covid kid." (Quarantine left few opportunities for socialization.) He's also my "velcro baby" (a term that I adopted from Mayim Bialik's description of her youngest child). Suffice it to say, first day drop off (and second, and third), were difficult. The second day, during circle time, he lay down on the ground and told his teachers he "needed space."
BOPN teachers know how to handle separation anxiety. They prepare parents, providing us supplemental materials to help us understand these dynamics for preschoolers. They have us read "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn and come up with a daily goodbye ritual. While these practices make drop off more pleasant for everyone involved, parents worry, because it's what we do. We think, "Is my child happy?" and "Are they listening to the teachers?" At the same time, our amazing teachers are attending to the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs of multiple preschoolers.
In comes Storypark, brought to our organization by rock star Lead Preschool Teacher Vanessa Niro. Storypark is a SaaS/EdTech product. The company is overseen by a board of advisors that includes teachers, experts in early childhood development, a pediatrician, and so on. Much to my delight, as a BOPN parent, I can now follow along with my son and his teachers during the school day. The image below is one of the many posted for us on Storypark showing my son "building a house" with ALL the sticks.
Through Storypark, BOPN parents and caregivers receive daily messages, pictures, and even videos, all via a convenient and secure app. And our teachers get the opportunity to showcase all of the hard work they're putting into translating our children's expressed interests into curriculum (and also just loving our kids). Storypark child notes and classroom stories are tagged with relevant early learning competencies, such as, in the case of the house building, "Curiosity & Initiative 1.5: The child invents projects and works on them with growing independence." Family members can filter by tags to see what skills their children are working on in different domains and how they are progressing.
We'll be posting Storypark entries written by BOPN teachers throughout the school year. Stay tuned to learn more about us and our approach to early childhood education.