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Early Education Child Care Center Brings Smiles to Children (and Relief to Parents) Stuck at Home
Like many other facilities on campus, the Syracuse University Early Education Child Care Center (EECCC) has been closed since March to adhere to COVID-19 guidance and social distancing protocols. With the children they provide care for safely at home with their parents, the EECCC teaching staff has put their creative skills to use by creating a library of over 100 videos on their YouTube channel.
The videos, initially conceived as a work-from-home project while the center was shut down, feature teachers reading books, singing songs, cooking and baking, leading STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities, leading kid-friendly yoga and more.
Joan Fleet, director of the EECCC, says the idea for the YouTube page came to her after one of the teachers began reading children’s books live on her personal Facebook page.
“It was a huge success—current families with children in the program were tuning in to her videos and former families began sending friend requests so that their children could watch the readings,” Fleet says. “At that point, I decided we needed a larger platform so that all our families could watch all the videos we created in once central place.”
Video: Jeanie Kinahan, a teacher in the Infant Room, walks students through a project of creating sensory bottles.
The channel has 40 subscribers and its videos have more than 2,500 views over the past month. With the center providing full-time care to 61 children of faculty, staff and students, repeat viewing appears to be the norm.
According to Fleet, the children at the center typically spend between 30 and 50 hours per week there. “It’s been very sad for all of us to be apart so suddenly and for so long,” she says. “We’re thrilled parents are able to use our videos to give their children a sense of routine and normalcy with familiar faces and voices.”
Laura Benjamin, access services librarian with Syracuse University Libraries, says that her 4-year-old son Isaac has been at the EECCC since he was 18 months old and has formed strong bonds with all the center’s teachers.
“The YouTube channel has been fantastic in helping us stay connected during this time at home,” she says. “His face lights up when he sees a teacher that he hasn’t seen since we went remote on the screen reading a story or singing a favorite song. It’s wonderful to have that moment with him to connect virtually with a familiar face that we love and miss.”
Phil Chan, advancement marketing strategist in the Division of Marketing and Communications, has two kids at the center: 1-year-old Ian and 3-year-old Peter.
“They love being able to see their teachers’ faces,” he says. “Peter especially loves the interactive videos they share … the ‘Eye Spy’ games and crafting videos really make him feel closer to his teachers. The EECCC is a magical place!”
Video: Float Teacher Wednesday Shedd sings Infant Room favorites.
In addition to YouTube videos, the center has stayed connected with families they serve through frequent Zoom meet-ups (just to check in or focused on an activity, like weekly online yoga), classroom newsletters, emails, photo sharing and connecting classroom friends with one another online. On Earth Day last month, dozens of families tuned into the weekly Zoom yoga class and sang “Happy Earth-Day” to the planet.
Recently, in preparation for children returning to the center once it is deemed safe to do so, the team compiled a video of what each of the teachers and staff members look like with and without their masks on. “We wanted to give parents something to share with their children to help alleviate some of the nervousness about not being able to see our faces when we return to campus,” Fleet says. As recently highlighted in an article by The New York Times, masks can be scary for children—especially for kids under age 6 who tend to recognize loved ones by individual features rather than a whole face.
Video: EECCC teachers show off their masks in anticipation of an eventual return to campus.
“We are very lucky to have our daughter, Lia, at the EECCC,” says Jen McLaughlin, senior benefits specialist in the Office of Human Resources. “It’s been a blessing to continue interacting with the teachers virtually. It’s a great way to stay connected and engaged during this pause from school, and it’s quite evident that the entire center has worked hard to keep our children smiling and happy during these very challenging times.”
“We just can’t wait to see our small friends again in person,” says Fleet.
To learn more about the EECCC, or to join their waiting list, visit the center’s website at eeccc.syr.edu.