2020 has been a roller coaster of a year, with Covid-19 closing us (and much of the world) for three months. Three long months of uncertainty and loads of time to reflect on society and our contributions to it. It is hard to watch what is going on around ourselves (like people losing jobs and making more money on emergency benefits; people being racist and others bravely standing up to them) without questioning where we stand on these issues. Even more importantly, what are we doing about them?
After much reflection and discussion, we decided that we need to loudly and clearly reestablish our values. We have always had a grand vision for Sunnyside, and we’ve continuously been moving towards it, but it’s time to raise it to another level. It’s time to make sure that Sunnyside is an accurate representation of our values of kindness, respect, social justice, and ecological activism. It is time to bring back the authentic childhood that young kids need to have; full of play, exploration, and fun. It’s time to focus on advocating for the children who can’t advocate for themselves.
First and foremost, we really had time to reflect on how much our staff means to us. Sunnyside is hugely successful because of the amazing educators that are part of the team. When we think about how awesome they are, how they care for each child as their own, and how we would be nowhere without them and their passion, they deserve far more appreciation than we’ve shown so far. Therefore, we are implementing a new minimum wage for educators at Sunnyside – at least $15/hour for an unqualified educator, and at least $18 for a qualified educator – effective September 1st, 2020. Our longer-term goal is to raise our salaries to the same scale as a CPE or subsidized daycare by Jan 1, 2022.
Second, we are now officially a daycare with no toys! Yes, you heard that right – we have very few actual store-bought toys for the children to play. However, there is no shortage of stuff for them to play with! There is an endless variety of rich, wondrous, and curiosity-inspiring materials for them to explore. This is known as the Loose Parts Theory and is shown to be a terrific way to encourage the development of so many skills, including: problem solving, social skills, fine and gross motor, language and literacy skills, mathematical and scientific thinking, emotional development, perseverance… the list could go on forever.
Third, our dedication to play as the most important part of a child’s life is, as usual, front and center of our program. The belief that children need long blocks of uninterrupted play-time is backed in science, like all of our policies are. Free play has been demonstrated to be vital for a child’s success in academics and beyond. This is not a new concept to Sunnyside, but we are publicly renewing our commitment to the free, playful, and authentic childhood that all kids deserve.
Lastly, during quarantine, we all had lots of time to think about our social values, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction and being super present in our lives – as it should be (and should always have been.) Evidence suggests that kids internalize stereotypes regarding race, class, gender, sexuality, and more, as early as in infancy and early childhood- and as a daycare, we are responsible for much of those formative childhood years!
So, we ask ourselves, how are we – as part of the village it takes to raise a child – helping to grow future generations of socially just and responsible adults? The answer – we aren’t doing enough. In response, we are introducing the implementation of the Anti-Bias Curriculum as part of our commitment to a kind and peaceful future, free of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other stereotypes. A future built on mutual respect, compassion, democracy, acceptance, and diversity.
This will not be an overnight process as we have so much to learn – beginning with scrutinizing and reflecting on the language we use, our actions, the materials, and the books we share with the kids.
At Sunnyside, we’ve always fostered a community of respect, openness, empathy, and compassion and with this vision statement, we are committing to doubling down on our efforts. This is best for the children in our care, our community, and the future of society as a whole.