Whole Child Program expands to second school

When there are problems at home, it’s hard to concentrate at school. Now more Whitehorse children will have the opportunity to overcome those…

When there are problems at home, it’s hard to concentrate at school.

Now more Whitehorse children will have the opportunity to overcome those learning barriers.

Bolstered by $91,000 from the Education department, The Whole Child Program, created to bridge the gaps between school, family and community, is expanding.

The activity-based program has been drawing crowds to Whitehorse Elementary School on Wednesday evening for the past five years.

This year it will expand to offer Thursday evening programming at Elijah Smith Elementary School.

“Our government supports the Whole Child Program because it takes an innovative, community-partnership approach to teaching our children and reinforces the saying ‘it takes a community to raise a child,’” said Education Minister Elaine Taylor in a release.

It was created to bridge a gap between schools, families and the community, and help remove barriers to learning that stand outside the classroom walls.

“We can’t fulfill the academic needs of the kids without looking at their whole families,” said the program’s community co-ordinator, Crystal Pearl-Hodgins on Tuesday.

“Families will be more supportive of the school if they know people there.”

The programs are open to children and families from across the city.

“We have many situations where the father may be taking a gingerbread house workshop with one of the kids, and the mom might be in a Nobody’s Perfect parenting program and another kid in the family may be playing in the gym — so you have a whole variety of things.”

What’s offered is based on what the community asks for.

Each year, since 2001, program co-ordinators have gone door-to-door canvassing for ideas.

Then the program responds to those needs, so it may look dramatically different from one year to the next.

The program also employs an outreach worker who works directly with families that may need help with anything from going through a divorce, to finding a house, to job-search strategies.

After five years in operation, the program has already garnered national attention.

Canadian Olympian Silken Laumann visited Whitehorse Elementary and featured the Whole Child Program in her book, Child’s Play, which hit store shelves in April.

Now, armed with a newsletter, website and the new satellite program at Elijah Smith, Pearl-Hodgins is looking to raise the program’s profile in the Yukon.

“I tell people all the time — it’s the best party on a Wednesday night in town; you walk in and it doesn’t even sound like a school, it doesn’t feel like a school,” said Barbara Curtis, an outreach worker with the program.

“There’s music blaring out of the gym. It’s just a really great feeling,”

This year, the program is expected to start in the third week of September with an open gym, open computer lab and onsite childcare.

By December it expects to ramp up to full strength with six or seven rooms bustling with activity, said Pearl-Hodgins.