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We are delighted to say that after 3 years away, the School of Early Childhood’s Jamaica project is back up and running.  This project has been the heart and soul of many early childhood students, students from the Deaf and Deafblind Studies, Behavioural Science Technology students, and students from the School of Nursing.  With this being our first visit back since COVID, we are focusing specifically on the Early Childhood Education students and I’m happy to say that 6 students have joined the project.

For more than 20 years, George Brown College has been developing partnerships in the Kingston and Portmore communities within Early Childhood institutions as well as enriching relationships with The Early Childhood Commission, Shortwood Teachers’ College, and The University of West Indies. Jamaica has welcomed over 250 George Brown College students since its conception and Toronto has welcomed more than 63 Jamaica students and faculty since 2005.

The reciprocal learning that takes place is invaluable for our student educators, Jamaica Educators, the children, families, and communities.  The children benefit from the collaboration between educators in planning and facilitating a play-based curriculum while incorporating the national curriculum and standards.  With that being said, this year’s students are placed at Bloom Early Childhood Centre of Excellence, University of West Indies.  This centre is the first of its kind on the island as it is seen as a lab school and has children from 3 months to 5 years.  They are an integrated centre that serves children of faculty, staff, and students from UWI as well as the broader community.   

 The picture above is of the students' first day at Bloom. With the ongoing support of family, friends, and college employees the students raised enough funds to bring teaching materials and classroom resources to be used in their assigned rooms.  With great appreciation and gratitude, we thank you for all your help in making this student experience happen!

Letters from students

Leeann Kalliecharan: January 8, 2024

On my first day here in Jamaica for my Early Childhood Education placement, I embarked on a complex yet exciting adventure. Despite my initial uncertainty with what to expect, I truly believe the weekend spent connecting with the team through deep conversations and bursts of laughter, as well as a reflective church service we had the pleasure of being invited to set the perfect tone for the beginning of day one. This preparation and open-mindedness cultivated during this time has provided me to quickly integrate myself into the Jamaican class’s daily routine. I was able to take the opportunity to observe and share ideas and differences with the other classroom practitioners on how curriculum planning is carried out here verse in Canada. These fellow educators in my room already have made me feel like part of the team, and I eagerly anticipate the valuable lessons we'll learn from each other in the upcoming weeks. The journey has just begun, and I'm excited for the learning and growth ahead.


Akilah Atherley:  January 12, 2024

It’s been eight days since we arrived in Jamaica, and I continue to feel, the warmth of the air, land, and people; the concept of 'one love' resonates within the community. As I reflect, I feel genuine kindness, and hospitality extended by the staff at Shortwood Teachers College and the University of the West Indies-Bloom Early Childhood Centre. Early morning greetings from Ms. Paula with savory authentic Jamaican cultural dishes and table discussions about pepper sauce, and what exactly is ackee have become a valued part of my morning routine. In a short period, I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself into the culture, participating in local activities including attending a church, navigating through Blue Mountain in search of coffee, visiting markets, and our upcoming trip to climb the Dunns River Falls. Interacting with the local community and culture has provided rich opportunities to develop a sense of belonging.

As a mother being away from my children, was one of the hardest things to undertake, but knowing that they are in good hands, and I will return a better version of myself is what keeps me motivated. Each day spent with the children at the centre is impactful, I continue to find value in authentic moments, sharing my knowledge, genuine compliments, positive affirmations, and small embraces from tiny arms. My daily reflection journal entries and readings have drawn me to the concept of the hummingbird lens within indigenous cultures and the parallels to an African Adinkra symbol named Sankofa. This symbol represents the necessity of bringing knowledge from the past into the present to move forward.

In the following weeks, I plan to continue to build strong reciprocal relationships with my teammates through problem-solving, collaborating, and open honest conversations. I'm overjoyed with the idea of spending a month on this lush mountainous island. The environment plays a crucial role in the holistic development and well-being of the community, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to nurture our youngest members and learn from the land. As I journey through to become an impactful educator and the best version of myself, I find myself re-examining my image of a child, and how to best support their social-emotional development. I’m looking forward to the following weeks of knowledge, growth, and joy shared with team members, the children, and the community.

Raazia Hasan: January 17, 2024

Spending 12th day in Kingston, Jamaica and Oh man, what an experience it is! Their winter is like summer but the days are not very hot, which keeps the weather pleasant.

We started our journey with a warm welcome from the staff of Shortwood Teachers College. After greeting us, they gave us a brief tour of our residence, where we are going to live for a month. Staff, students and people here are very welcoming and helpful. Our schedules and routines are planned for every day, which gives us an idea for the whole day. During the week, we are busy with the University of the West Indies-Bloom Early Childhood Centre, where we spend most of our time with beautiful and amazing children and staff. And on the weekend, we go on planned trips. On the weekends, we roam around as tourists. We have been to amazing places and had memorable experiences. Such as going to churches where we meet the people of the community, taking a trip to the Blue Mountains, climbing Dunns River Falls, and visiting local markets. On the weekend, we also go for grocery runs or do any other errands like laundry, etc.

My favorite thing about Jamaica is that the people here are so welcoming, kind, supportive and social. No matter if we meet them in person or see them on the bus, they don’t miss a chance to say Hi. And Oh Lord! their trees are the best in this whole entire world. I feel like every tree has its own history, story and uniqueness. We have also tried quite a few Jamaican foods, such as fried plantains, ackee, fried dumplings, etc.

Also, the experience at the centre is great, different, useful and productive. The staff is open and ready to support us all the time. In the centre, the curriculum, way of teaching and environment is very different from Canada. Children here are very involved, eager to learn and show interest in almost everything. My favorite part about the centre layout is the huge mountains in front of the playground which look so surreal every time.

It is true that Jamaica is a land of natural beauty, especially the greenery here is unmatchable and unbeatable. I am lucky enough to get an overseas opportunity to have a lifetime experience where I am spending a month in a new country while also completing my studies at the same time. I still have more than half of a trip to spend here. I am looking forward to learning more from the culture, people, team members, community and from Jamaican children, of course.

Yuet Miu Chan (Kayla): Wednesday January 23, 2024

As we progress into week 3, we are already halfway through our placement, meaning our departure is approaching soon. I can already envision myself shedding tears on my last day at placement.

Having a placement in a location that is completely different from our home is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Especially when you have to adapt to the weather, food, and cultural differences. However, the warm welcome from Shortwood Teachers’ College and the passionate practitioners at Bloom Early Childhood Centre of Excellence have eased my worries and I have had a wonderful time since my arrival. I enjoy my time at the center, interacting with children and parents which always reminds me of the crucial role educators play in the lives of children and families. I also relish in the conversations with the practitioners, as we exchange ideas on curriculum and activities. These conversations inspire me and reminds me of why I wanted to become an educator, which enrich my placement experience.

On the weekends, we visited different places. Out of all the excursion, I like Dunn's River the most. Our team climbed up the falls together for the first time, which was a memorable experience and really helped us bond as a team. We have also visited the Bob Marley Museum, Devon House, and Blue Mountain, where we have learned about the significance of culture to the people here and gained a deeper understanding of their identity. We have also had the opportunity to try local foods like jerk wings, famous ice cream, and coffee. These experiences have made our journey even more special as we have immersed ourselves in the culture and participated in activities that we would not normally have access to at home.

I am fascinated by the diversity of animal species and plants here. The beautiful hummingbirds, shady ackee trees, nimble anoles, and the clear blue sky that I can stargaze at every night remind me of the beauty of nature and the world.

There are less than two weeks remaining on our journey. I will treasure every moment spent engaging with children and families wholeheartedly, as well as immersing myself in the beautiful and unique culture. I eagerly anticipate bringing back what I have learned here and incorporating it into our work at home.

Jariyat Ojomu: Monday January 29, 2024

Hoops! Time has gone by so quickly; I can’t believe it’s already our fourth week and last week of placement in Jamaica.

Our stay from the first day to this present moment has been nothing short of beautiful experiences, from a welcoming environment to meeting approachable and endearing people, to exciting feelings of fitting into another culture as well as working in accordance with team members and the professional educators at the center.

It’s been long coming that George Brown has been recognizing other cultures and supporting Jamaica on this educational play-based learning approach. This year, students are at Bloom Early Childhood Center for placement and Shortwood Teachers’ College as lodge camp. Working with these amazing children with an open and receptive approach has not only benefited them but has also given me some sense of satisfaction.  Being able to support and follow through with the children’s development and wishes, having the children come around me every day to share their thoughts, makes me feel good at what I am doing as well as being successful. I am happy with the connections I was able to make with the children and their families.

If you ask me how I felt embarking on this journey, I will say it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Why? Because I was leaving behind a valuable and adorable part of me which is my family (spouse and children) for the month. Even though it was a hard decision to make, I know it would be worth the move because I realize that the best way to educate is to put it into practice. This way, I can model being resilient, determined and a goal getter by expressing it in words and actions.  That is not to say I did not miss them, but there is no success without story.

It has been a fascinating experience and a privilege to tour quite a few great places in Jamaica despite our tight schedules. Every weekend we had fun touring memorable places in Kingston and its environment. Some of the fun places we have visited include Dunn’s River and its waterfalls, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Blue Mountain, Devon House, Bob Marley Museum, Courtleigh Hotel, Pegasus Hotel, Ministry of Education Conference Center, Trench Town: birth home of Bob Marley, Emancipation Park, and National Heros park. Does that not sound amazing? It has been a whole lot of experience embodied in one trip. I look forward to sharing my experience with my co-students when we are back in Canada.

Jacqueline Ristmagi-White: Friday February 2, 2024

The entire Jamaica experience has provided me with the knowledge that adaptability is a necessary asset we, as future ECEs, must demonstrate in all environments.  Children are similar everywhere you go, environments differ.  I have learned that I, as an educator, need to stay true to myself, and remember to bring my knowledge that I have acquired along my educational journey.  Coming to Jamaica has shown me how I am just as appreciated in these environments as I am anywhere. The key is to be confident in one’s own awareness that is brought. 

On my final day of this journey, I was filled with great feelings of accomplishment and sadness.  I feel like I did contribute to a very positive experience for the children.  I showed this by presenting awards to the children with certificates of achievement.  The sadness, however, was felt because I have not only built strong bonds with the children and families at Bloom, but because I will no longer be able to be apart of their educational journey.

Overall, I am incredibly happy to say that I was a student of the Jamaica Project 2024!