The transition to at-home learning and keeping the kids engaged at home is no mean feat, as any parent will attest to. And recognising just that, British Orchard Nursery launched its innovative, fun eLearning system BONline in March, becoming one of the first nurseries to do so.
Comprising mini-tutorials and activity sheets and specially curated by teachers and curriculum coordinators to ensure continual learning every day, the concept covers all learning milestones to help progress toddlers and young children to achieve their Early Years Learning goals. And parents are kept in the loop at all times – they are given hotline numbers and can still reach out to their branch principal should they need to.
Also offered is free activities and education support via emails and via the BON tube channel with free support videos and DIY educational activities – think the importance of washing hands, threading and lacing, making playdough, gloop making, teaching matching sounds and science experiments, among others. BON follows the award-winning UK EYFS curriculum model for the UAE, and has a strong research and development team.
Dr Vandana Gandhi, Founder and CEO of British Orchard Nursery, says grasping the new normal didn’t come easy. “The 0 to 6 years is a crucial age in a child’s lifelong development, and the pandemic brought a very sudden change and hence a challenging time for the children,” she says, “but we held live circle time sessions, through which they have had regular contact with their teachers and friends.”
The model has been developed keeping in mind anxieties among both teachers as well as students that stem from self-isolation. “BON teams and leaders had to connect, coordinate, train and support each other in completely new methodologies practically overnight and online. But BON teachers, keen to keep the connection with their children and families, put an immense amount of time and energy into preparing interesting and engaging sessions.”
Along with imparting education, Vandana says she herself has learnt a few lessons from the pandemic. Such as the fact that teachers and leaders do not need to be in an office every day to be productive and creative. “Working from home and time flexibility has been an incredibly refreshing experience and something BON would encourage as a standard practice.”
Vandana acknowledges the situation isn’t ideal, but says parents form the integral link here. “As Early Years experts BON understands that online learning is not the best way of teaching – little ones need hands-on play, to engage with an adult, to talk about what they are learning, and to explore materials freely. In this current situation of a pandemic it has been vitally important that preschools support and train the parents as emergency teachers. They are the partners and co-teachers now.
“We can achieve the same learning goals for our children with parent collaboration.” To this effect, British Orchard Training Centre is also offering parent, teacher and nanny training courses and KHDA-recognised UK certifications through online teacher training programmes.
British Orchard Nursery will hold e-assemblies and graduations for its students this month with the theme Culture and Nature. Each child will showcase the learnings acquired in term 3, and year-end reports will be handed out along with e-graduation rolls. “The children have planned activities of making the graduation caps themselves and hence will power their own graduation,” says Vandana. “Parents can take pictures of themselves with the graduates and BON will make a collage of the e-ceremony.”
In daily learning, BON parents engage with the BONapp suite and are guided by teachers to upload their children’s responses to the learning through photos, videos and voice notes. Teachers then give personalised feedback to children for extra challenges.