More early-learning spaces help grow tomorrow’s leaders

Katie Melville

A time-honoured symbol of teachers and students, even the humble apple can be an all-day learning opportunity at Wee the West early childhood centre in Bloomfield.

“We picked apples and talked about how they come in all shapes and sizes and colours,” Wee the West director Katie Melville says. “We talked about texture and taste -- are they sweet or salty? Warm or cold? We discussed growing seasons and things you can make with apples.”

Demand for early learning is growing across the province, which is why Melville is grateful for increased investment by the Prince Edward Island government. Working with community partners, the province is improving an early childhood sector that is already recognized as among the best in Canada. Nearly 360 new child-care spaces have opened in just the past six months including 50 new spaces at Wee the West last month.

“I believe a person’s a person no matter how small,” Melville said, “and government's investment shows they believe that too.”

For two to three days each week, Wee the West is home to the children of 29 western Prince Edward Island families, mostly seasonal shift workers. Katie said extending operating hours (the centre is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) - in areas where most families work shift work - allows her to support them in ways she couldn’t before.

“I want life to be consistent for them. Often when mom and dad are seasonal workers, home can’t be consistent. Sometimes they work 12-hour days; we know we can offer quality child care to enhance growth and development.”

“Prince Edward Island’s growing population includes many families with young children, which is increasing the need for early learning and child care,” Education, Early Learning and Culture Minister Jordan Brown said. “In response, we are supporting the expansion of spaces in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall where the population is increasing the most.

"At the same time, we are responding to needs in rural areas where seasonal employment and a smaller population can make it more challenging to operate viable centres.”

Melville has five employees plus herself, and she is accepting resumes to hire more. Depending on the work schedules of some of the children’s parents, the days can sometimes be long but rewarding.

“You can tell families are inspired by the work we are doing,” said Melville, who was educated in early childhood education at UPEI and Holland College. “My heart is with children. I really want to help them thrive and learn and grow.

“After all, these children are the people who are going to be running our world in 20 years.”

Find out more about early childhood development on PEI.  

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