An early childhood learning program being delivered by Ilitaqsiniq: Nunavut Literacy Council is off to a strong start in Rankin Inlet with eager young children and their parents.

The Pinnguaqta program closely parallels the Parents and Tots program Kivalliq parents may be familiar with, and focuses on children still too young to attend school.

The program runs from Tuesday to Saturday from nine until 11:45 a.m. in the mornings and from 1:15 until 3:30 p.m. in the afternoons.

Young hunters, from left, Kelvin Tatty, Lance Tatty and Owen Issakiak use a little imagination to provide all the traditional necessaties while attending the Pinnguaqta pilot project in Rankin Inlet on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy of Kelly Clark-Lindell

It is located in the same building that houses the Royal Bank of Canada in Rankin.

The Pinnguaqta program is being funded through Makigiaqta,  Early Childhood Education and the Healthy Child Initiative.    

Ilitaqsiniq’s Kelly Clark-Lindell of Rankin Inlet said the program is hoping to catch the youngsters who aren’t going to preschool, are not attending a day care, and are either being babysat at home or staying at home with one or both parents.

Clark-Lindell said the program affords these youth a place to come during the day, socialize with other children, do arts-and-crafts activities and use their imaginations playing with a wide variety of toys.

She said the program’s main focus is to be culturally relevant and, to that end, they have elder Quluaq Pilakapsi on staff to help deliver the program being co-ordinated by Jovette Kurok.

“If you’re coming in to see our program, you would use the same main entrance as the Royal Bank and, kind of, veer to your right after entering,” said Clark-Lindell.

“We (Ilitaqsiniq ) talked to a few teachers and members of the community in general who mentioned that we have so many children starting in kindergarten each year, that a number of them don’t get a chance to attend preschool because there’s just too many of them.

“We also heard about overcrowded houses and people having nowhere to go and that’s always a thing in Rankin – they have nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Imogen Fredlund, left, and Hazel Aukstinaitis are getting creative while playing together at the Pinnguaqta program in Rankin Inlet on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy of Kelly Clark-Lindell

“So we really wanted to put an emphasis on parents being involved with their children s’ learning.”

Clark-Lindell said the Pinnguaqta program is not a place for people to drop their kids and expect someone to entertain them all day.

She said parents are expected to stay and play with their children, and be involved with their learning activities.

“We made the decision to offer this program as a pilot project in Rankin to see if it proves itself valuable to the community.

“The need seems to be there because we’ve had people coming every day. On one day, we had about 30 people in our space and that was just great to see.

“We started during the third week of October, I believe, and we intend on running the pilot project until the end of March 2020.

“The community’s response to the program has been all positive so far, and we keep encouraging anybody else who is at home with their child, or children – even if you’re just visiting Rankin for awhile and you have young children – to come and enjoy our space, and meet new people in a very, very welcoming atmosphere where no one is turned away.”

Clark-Lindell said one big benefit parents reap who attend the program regularly is being engaged with their child in whatever activities they’re participating in.

She said there are many times a parent – and she includes herself – is too busy at home to answer their child’s question because they aren’t seen as the top priority at that time.

“Our program provides a space away from home where a parent and their child can escape and have a great time together.

“Other benefits include learning from our staff elder and having access to a lot of cool cultural toys that were made for us by the Niksik Shop in Rankin’s Area Six that you just wouldn’t find anywhere else.

We have little ulus, skin-scraping boards and little wooden guns that all the kids – boys and girls – play with that, hopefully, will lead to them learning how to use the real things one day.

“Just while playing, they’re learning how to hold a harpoon or an ulu properly and, hopefully, being surrounded by all those things is going to pay off in the end.”

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