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Parents camp for nature kindergarten spots
Wrapped in a blanket and tucked in tight to a lawn chair, Taemar Verbaarschot settles in to camp outcamps out at the Sooke School District office.
Parents got their own nature experience with tents, sleeping bags, rain gear and pretzels while awaiting kindergarten registration.
Verbaarschot hasn’t camped out for concert tickets and is often reluctant to stand in line, but it was worth it to get her son Sam, 4, enrolled in nature kindergarten at Sangster elementary school in Colwood.
“He is happiest when he is in the forest, at a beach or by a river,” said the mother first in line. “This is going to be his first experience in formal education and I want it to be in an old-growth forest.”
Parents began lining up at 4 a.m. Monday to guarantee a spot in the 22-student program. They made two lines: one for boys and one for girls. The class designated 10 spots for boys, 10 for girls and two for First Nations students.
By late afternoon Monday, 12 parents were in line for boys and five parents with daughters waited.
“We see the value with boys and outdoor play and boys tend to struggle in school,” speculated Kim Coy, fourth in line to get her son in the program. Coy is eager to have her son Maximus in the program also because the teacher is paired with an early childhood educator.
“It brings the ratio down to 11 to one instead of 22 to one. It’s a far better ratio than you can find anywhere else in B.C.,” Coy said.
Tara Anderson was 12th in line and thought she was early at 3:15 p.m. on Monday. When she heard a line was forming she waited for her son to finish preschool, and with no one to watch him, brought 5-year-old Oscar to wait in line too.
Candice Hall stood in line for son Ryland last year. From previous experience she knew it wouldn’t be the same time crunch to get her daughter Ava in the class this year.
“Parents think their girls may not be good outside when it’s so wet and muddy. My daughter is excited to be in the program,” Hall said.
District staff arrived at the office early Tuesday bearing coffee and baked goods for the 13 parents in the boys’ line and 10 in the girls’ that included four First Nations students’ parents.
Roberta Kubik, assistant superintendent of SD 62, acknowledges the program has high interest for parents of boys, but added all of the girls’ seats were also quickly spoken for.
“Boys tend to be more project based learners, but 10 girls to 13 boys is not a big difference,” Kubik said.
The school board designates 10 spots for girls and 10 for boys to create a gender balance and two First Nations spots to reflect the demographic in the region.