HFH Early Childhood Education Centers kicked off 2020 with several exciting units, including a Black History Month series, featuring a visiting oral storyteller, as well as an annual animal science project, in which students learn about the life cycle by hatching their own chicks. While the COVID-19 pandemic affected the in-person schooling in dramatic ways, HFH Early Childhood Education Centers still found ways to connect with their students and families. During annual Moving Up Ceremonies, families at HFH watch their young children receive diplomas and reflect upon a year of learning at HFH Early Childhood Education Centers. In addition to bringing families together to celebrate their students, this year’s ceremonies also offered a glimpse at how students were able to continue learning, playing, and growing at HFH Early Childhood Education Centers during the last few months of the 2019-2020 school year.
In a typical school year, graduating students perform dance numbers and teachers deliver speeches before a large audience of caregivers, siblings, and HFH staff. This summer, Saratoga and Prospect Early Childhood Education Centers adapted their ceremonies to conform with COVID-related health and safety guidelines, while maintaining the same spirit of what has become a cherished tradition for HFH families and teachers alike. At Saratoga, teachers opted to hold their Moving Up Ceremony outside, under socially distanced tents in Saratoga’s on-site early childhood playground space. This decision allowed families at Saratoga Early Childhood Education Center to come together in person for the first time since March 2020, when social distancing protocols began—providing the closure that children needed at the end of their school year. Teachers had been communicating with parents remotely through the mobile phone app Remind, while providing students with virtual learning opportunities and limited in-person programming.
At Prospect Early Childhood Education Center, teachers opted to throw a virtual Moving Up Ceremony to celebrate their young students. One familiar feature of the online graduation was an annual slideshow, featuring photos of the graduates, their activities in the classroom, and other memories. This year’s slideshow featured photos of the children at their classroom learning centers, as well as family events, classroom fun, and friendships being made. It also featured photos of the virtual lessons held for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including family art activities and at-home science projects. One grateful mother reached out to staff to thank them for teaching her son Vally, sharing that he was ready for his next step at his new school because of them: “Thank you for everything. Vally really enjoyed your classes and I appreciate what you and the other teachers did for him.”