Living Daycare

DNews article about Dawson’s Living Daycare project with Sustainability Office representative Jenn de Vera

Appreciation for Nature

“Our goal is for these children to grow up with an appreciation for Nature and to use Nature as a mentor,” said Jennifer de Vera of the Sustainability Office. “Through this work, we are extending our philosophy of a Living Campus to the daycare setting.”

Living Campus is a concept created by Dawson College to promote:

  • high-impact learning practices
  • using the campus as a living laboratory for exploring and learning
  • opportunities for experiential, global and community-based learning
  • collaboration, research and connection with Nature
  • sustainability principles
  • well-being for all.

Interest from across Canada and beyond

Elementary schools in Quebec, other colleges in Canada, a community in Texas and universities in Mexico have all invited Dawson College to share the Living Campus concept. Dawson Daycare is the first Living Daycare.

“We do the Living Daycare activities with students from Community Recreation and Leadership Training (CRLT) who are working with us as Sustainabili-team volunteers for their fieldwork placement,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer has reorganized for the closure to be able to continue offering activities for the young children under five years old who frequent Dawson Daycare, a CPE (centre de la petite enfance) on the campus of Dawson College that offers daycare to children of Dawson employees, students and other neighbourhood families.

Connecting with weekly YouTube video and Zoom meeting

Every week, Jennifer produces and shares a video on YouTube for the children and their parents to watch and leaves them an activity to do. The first video about chipmunks was distributed April 22 and then Jennifer invited them to join her in a Zoom meeting the following Wednesday.

To date, 18 children and their parents are participating.

Something meaningful to do

Jennifer invited the children to take walks with their parents and look for animals. “Parents shared the screen during the Zoom meeting and  showed me the animal they spotted or talked about it,” she said. “I actually met many of the parents for the first time. They were happy and told me it gave them something meaningful to do.”

Last week, the kids watched a video by Jennifer about a swallowtail butterfly and they will be sharing about insects on their Living Daycare Zoom meeting tomorrow.

Living Daycare to continue until May 27

Jennifer plans to continue offering Living Daycare activities online until May 27 and may continue to offer a special activity once a month in the summer. “In a normal summer, I usually do monthly workshops on composting and gardening with Dawson Daycare,” she said. “The children help me transplant into the daycare planters in the parking lot. We always choose herbs and flowers that smell nice so they can touch them and smell them with their parents everyday: lemon verbena, lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme.”

The Living Daycare work brings together several of Jennifer’s passions: well-being for all, sustainably, and the education of pre-school children.

Jennifer has been working for four years to raise awareness about all things sustainable in the Dawson community. Prior to coming to Dawson, Jennifer operated her own private pre-school and party centre.

Difference that lasts a lifetime

“My experience with pre-school children made me realize what a difference I can make in their lives,” Jennifer said. “I believe that by educating them young about the importance of our environment, they will carry that knowledge throughout their lives.”

While working full time at Dawson, Jennifer completed her bachelor’s degree in Community Studies (BACS) in December. She also completed a six-month training in Sustainable Happiness Facilitation. Jennifer is currently working on a master’s degree in Education in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation.

Last Modified: November 9, 2023