BOW VALLEY – An Exshaw School Grade 2 class project on sharing positive messages around the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into public poster campaign in the valley.
Teacher Stacy Ramdyal said prior to in-person classes being cancelled in March, her students were working on a project to create a public campaign around responsible pet ownership.
"Unfortunately, COVID-19 happened, so that project had to be wrapped up quickly," Ramdyal said. "But I wanted to do something really special for these kids."
While the class was focused on core learning subjects like reading and mathematics, Ramdyal said the students were keen to learn about what was going on with coronavirus as well.
"I found some really wonderful children's books that gently explained what the coronavirus is, how it started and how we can protect ourselves and others," she said.
Google video chat sessions with students saw them learn about best practices like hand washing and wearing masks, which evolved to learning how the virus got its name and how to draw its crown-like spikes.
"We had fun drawing the virus and I think all this learning and exposure to what is going on, it made it less of a big scary thing anymore," Ramdyal said. "They understood it and could speak about it. They felt they had all this very good information and they wanted to share it with others."
Sharing those messages, however, would be difficult with students working from home and social distancing requirements still in place to help prevent the virus from spreading.
Students channelled their desire to share what they learned into designing posters that included a message about how people can stay safe.
Out of a class of 24 students, Ramydal received 28 entries into the impromptu colouring contest.
"They had so much fun," she said. "Designing a poster about the coronavirus empowered them to share their knowledge in the form of a poster."
Inspired by their creativity, Ramydal shared the posters on social media.
Cynthia Hunt saw what the Grade 2 class had created all the way from Ladakh, in the Himalayas, where she has lived and worked for the past 30 years.
Although she is on the other side of the world, Hunt has maintained a close connection to the Bow Valley. The schools and village groups she works with in India have worked with local schools here to share learning methodologies, as well as provide internships and volunteer opportunities.
She said the COVID-19 shutdown saw schools in Ladakh close as well, and an online activity page was created called Karuna Corona Cares. Karuna means "caring" or "compassion" in Hindi.
"As part of that, we held a contest for kids to produce health, science or arts posters about lockdown or COVID and many Canadian kids participated," Hunt said in an email, adding that included the Exshaw class.
"When the volunteers operating the learning pages saw the Exshaw class posters, we fell in love with them and wanted to help the kids feel proud of their work with a prize of printing their posters."
From the other side of the world, Hunt mobilized efforts in the valley to arrange for high-quality posters to be printed. They show each student holding the poster they designed, their message for the community and their name.
Ramydal said receiving that generosity and kindness all the way from India came at the right time to recognize all the hard work her students have been doing from home.
"Each child will receive their own poster to keep as a memory of how hard they worked at home," she said. "It couldn't have come at a better time for me, and for them, because there is so much uncertainty with life and when it will go back to normal.
"At least there is one really positive memory we can all keep from COVID-19 and the challenges we have all faced."
Ramydal said she hopes residents of the valley feel a little bit better after they see the posters with the children's bright smiles and positive messages around safety.