I recently visited the Intergrated Kindergarten Program at Bloorview School Authority. The program was created by Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School (University of Toronto) and Bloorview School Authority more than 20 years ago.
The IKP program is unique in that it's made up of a class of typically developing JK/SK students enrolled in the Jackman Institute of Child Study and a class of JK/SK students with disabilities from Bloorview Integrated Education and Therapy Program.
The goals of this program are to promote confidence, self-esteem, and self-advocacy, to address inclusion, stereotyping and discriminatory behaviour, and to prepare students with physical disabilities for successful integration.
This program is focused on helping children to advocate for themselves, to be inclusive, and an early immersion in understanding people who are different from them.
Even though, I only spent 2 hours in the classroom, I could see that this program is fulfilling their goals. I love that the school offers a real play based learning but was still equipped with some of the latest technologies like smart boards and iPads. The day I visited the kids were performing a play. They had been fully immersed in what goes on with a play, from putting together the set, learning lines, helping with the costumes. The week before was the Dino Fair where the classroom was turned into an excavation site, and the children could be scientists exploring all things dinosaurs.
I absolutely LOVED how this program lives and breathes inclusivity. The program is teaching children how to see the difference and embrace it. From an early age the program teaches children that regardless of our abilities and our differences we can all take part in a project, or a game, or society. While the focus of the program is on how to be inclusive of children with difference abilities, in the long run, these will be the same children who are inclusive of different race, ethnicity, culture, gender. These kids will grow up into adults with the traits that we want out future generations to hold.
"The IKP classroom has been a transforming experience for my son Gabriel, who has cerebral palsy. All learning is hands on, and through play, he is building self-confidence. The uniqueness of the program is the integration of typically developing children, who learn from a very young age to respect the differences and experience true inclusion. This program has been creating human beings who are compassionate and able to truly make a difference in our communities" Said Fabiana Bacchini, parent
My kids are too old for this program, but I wished I had known about it earlier. While it's not free to participate, it's is a lower fee that most private schools. You can find out more about this incredible program here. And check out the feature on Global News Making A Difference show.