A Magnifying Glass into the ELC

Marist’s littlest learners and their educational journey during the pandemic.

Emmett Stowe plays in the ELC.

Photographer: Katie Soskin

Emmett Stowe plays in the ELC.

By Maggie York, Staff Writer

All around the world, students are being affected by COVID-19 and its severe impact on learning. Many have debated whether the class of 2020, 2021, or even 2022 has had it the worst. But one class we may be forgetting about is the youngest here at Marist: the Early Learning Center (ELC). Former Marist School President Fr. John Harhager launched the ELC so that faculty and staff have an on-site daycare facility for their young children. Although not many of the ELC’s young students have been physically affected by the virus or any of its side effects, their learning and social development are two great setbacks for many teachers. 

The first few years are some of the most important in a child’s learning habits, and this past year has been anything but habitual for many young kids. Between remote learning and limited social interaction during the pandemic, many young children are growing up in a completely different atmosphere than any current Marist students did in their preschool years. The biggest impact of COVID-19 has been on “the connection between the teachers and parents,” ELC teacher Katie Soskin said, as parents are no longer able to come inside to the classroom to drop their children off and converse with the teachers. Parents now have to wait outside the door to be greeted.

In the ELC, Soskin said, there is no mask mandate because it is very hard to enforce with little kids. In the same way, social distancing is very difficult with kids of this age. “But the ELC teachers wear masks and have to stay within their classroom,” said Soskin. Teachers are trying to leave a little sense of normalcy for these kids by allowing them to be near their friends. 

Porter Ezzell uses his time at recess to ride his bike. (Katie Soskin)

Like the other teachers at Marist, the ELC staff taught their students virtually from March to August of last year. Teaching three, four, and five-year-old children is especially difficult because “their attention span is so small,” said Soskin. To combat this, ELC teachers sent daily videos to the kids with activities such as reading a book, singing a song, or having a weekly show and share. 

But Soskin said there have been upsides to teaching in the midst of a pandemic. “The smaller class sizes and not having as many kids in each room” helps to slow the spread of the virus and aids in teaching the kids,” she said.                                                                         

Due to the amount of change outside of the classroom for many of the ELC students, the teachers have kept a consistent teaching routine for the children. “Keeping the same routine every day helps so as the year goes on, the children start to learn and know what is next,” said Soskin. This helps keep the children interested in what they are learning and encourages them to still find school exciting.

Recess, many of the children’s favorite activities during the day, is still on at the ELC! Soskin says recess allows children to get outside to explore and get some exercise. This is one of the many COVID-friendly activities of the ELC.

As we all continue to live in this strange time, we should recognize how every single person has been affected, even the tiniest members of our community!