In 1981, the first kindergarten in Membertou was established in the basement of the old school house. It began as a half day program in late fall and by January it was in full operation when the upstairs was vacated to make more room for the new daycare centre. Its founder, Pauline Bernard, a graduate of Early Childhood Education, acted as its first Director. Along with her staff, she was able to build a reputable day care that has been used as a model in both the Native and Non-Native Communities within the Atlantic Region. In 1988, the present building.... was Wallace Bernard Memorial Centre was built and opened in 1989 to children between the ages of 3 years to 5 years old.
The Centre gives the community the opportunity to begin schooling for our elementary children, with grade primary in 1997 and grade one in 1998.
The Wallace Bernard Memorial Centre provides day care/preschool services for 3 and 4 year olds, either group attending half day, and a full day for those parents who require these services. The children are funded through the Department of Indian Affairs (K - 4) for half days. The 3 year olds are brought in January to help them adjust to the teachers and program. Parents requiring the full day pay to have their children in the full day program. Having a flexible schedule helps the parent/parents return to school, enroll in training programs and enter or re-enter the work force.
The grade primary program began at the Centre in September of 1997. Funding received from the First Nation ChildCare Initiative (FNCI) has made it possible to take on the primary program since our children were moved to the provincial school system in 1964. The (FNCI) has also made it possible to build an extension to the Centre to house our grade primaries and next year our grade one class.
Currently the Centre employs 3 certified teachers, 1 Mi'kmaq teacher, 1 teacher assistant and a janitor. The Membertou Band was paying the province for full day service, however, these children who attended primary in the provincial system are back in their community by twelve noon making it difficult for parents who are away for the day working or learning. The program at our centre now provides a full day of instruction and the children also stay for lunch and going home at 3 p.m. The children were also losing one half day of development readiness skills in their educational process which could seriously impact on their educational accomplishments overall.
Mi'kmaq culture and language is integrated into the program with scheduled activities, story-telling, and singing. Pictures, artifacts, games and activities are used to enhance the cultural/language program.
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