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Andra Innuaraq (ECE student), Seanna Soucie, and Leetia Peterloosie enjoy reading together. © Tessa Lochhead

Providing ‘a place to grow’ in Pond Inlet

The Pirurvik Preschool opened its doors in January 2016 and offers an Early Childhood Education (ECE) program for children ages two-and-a-half to four years old in Pond Inlet. The Program is child centred and based on the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) principles and enriched through the use of Montessori materials, with a goal to provide a culturally relevant learning experience. Pirurvik is guided by the IQ principal Pilimmaksarniq, which allows children to learn at their own pace. Children follow their own natural curiosity by choosing topics that interest them. The learning materials are ‘hands on’ resources and allow for self-directed development with teachers acting as facilitators by providing appropriate support. Students are internally motivated to learn based on their individual interest in each activity. This experiential approach to learning creates a classroom of engaged and happy children.

This Pilimmaksarniq approach to education is facilitated by the resource rich Montessori ethod of learning. As reflected in the IQ
principles, children are recognized as individuals and are encouraged to make decisions for themselves. Both IQ and Montessori put the emphasis of learning in the hands of the child by trusting her to know what she needs. This approach to ECE compliments the educational values of the community of Pond Inlet as it builds confidence and independence at a critical age of development. Language development is key to ECE instruction and the classroom resources aim to promote and enrich Inuktitut literacy and include: Inuktitut sandpaper syllabics, large moveable Inuktitut syllabics, Inuktitut sound bags and small moveable Inuktitut syllabics.

Alashua Akpaleapik, Leah Kippomee (ECE student), and Balika Idlout trace sandpaper syllabics with their fingers, which helps them to prepare for writing skills.
Alashua Akpaleapik, Leah Kippomee (ECE student), and Balika Idlout trace sandpaper syllabics with their fingers, which helps them to prepare for writing skills.

The Pirurvik Preschool has partnered with the Nunavut Arctic College (NAC). The NAC is providing a full-time Early Childhood Education Diploma two-year program in Pond Inlet during the 2015-17 academic period. The Pirurvik preschool is an extension of the Arctic College ECE training by providing a location and learning environment for the NAC practicum requirements. The preschool serves a double role of providing ECE while also building capacity in education as the students can seek full-time employment upon graduation.

NAC students in the Program were asked to reflect on their experiences and share their thoughts about ECE in Pond Inlet.

In your opinion, in what ways does the Pirurvik Preschool model Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit?

Samantha Koonoo: At the preschool there is seal skinning so children learn how to skin a seal. We teach them Inuit history and culture through songs in Inuktitut.

Leah Kippomee: We sing traditional songs like “Qalukpaajusii” and we also speak Inuktitut.

Charlotte Maktar: The students watch, learn, and try. I also notice inuuqatigiitsiarniq, pijitsirniq, and pilimmaksarniq being used a lot.

Dina Arreak: There is also a drum that is made for the children to use when we are singing songs. The drum is the same as what our ancestors would use.

How do you feel the preschool supports literacy in Pond Inlet?

Ruth Akpaleapik: It encourages students to learn the basics before they enter kindergarten and gain a positive attitude towards school and learning to become life-long learners.

Dina Arreak: The preschool supports literacy by teaching the children to recognize and pronounce the Inuktitut symbols. We also talk to the children in our own language.

Charlotte Maktar: We read books to the children and we also have a stereo that we can listen to while reading the book. We also have sandpaper letters and syllabics, flash cards, alphabet beanbags, a rug with the alphabet and some drawing and writing activities.

Masiva Pewatoalook: We hope children will be able to develop their literacy skills at their own pace. At the preschool we show the value of having literacy activities that are fun for children.

What do you think is the positive impact of Early Childhood Education in Nunavut?

Charlotte Maktar: We do our best to show the children how to be independent. When they want to do an activity we show them how to use or do the activity they choose, depending on their age and capability. once they know how to do the activity, they are free to do them whenever they want. We teach them how to observe and how to be patient. they learn and practice Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit through the activities.

Samantha Koonoo: The preschoolers are doing really well. They are learning to write their names and how to write in Inuktitut.

Masiva Pewatoalook: My role as an ECE educator is to teach children through play what it means to be Inuk, how we talk, hunt, tell stories and speak our language.

Fiona Aglak: It is really nice to see the children enjoying the preschool because they will be going to school in the next couple of years and they will already be used to it.

Tessa Lochhead
Tessa Lochhead is the Co-Founder of the Pirurvik