Learning emotional intelligence the Canadian way - with family, community and turkey

Maple Bear

Every October, Canadian families gather round the dinner table to celebrate all they are blessed with in life. Along with sharing delicious food and enjoying the crisp weather, the occasion represents an opportunity to connect with those that play an important role in one’s life.

As a day designated for mindfulness, Thanksgiving is arguably the original lesson in emotional intelligence - a holiday that revolves around connecting with oneself and with those around you.

Emotional intelligence is thus part of the Canadian cultural DNA , and strongly embedded into the education system across the country. At schools, students are often engaged in noting down and reflecting on the many things, big and small, that mean the world to them, requiring them to undertake introspection and recognize what strengthens their individuality.

But Thanksgiving is also a social and community event, and provides a chance for even the youngest members of a community to think beyond the limitations of their own physical self. Donation drives for less fortunate community members are as ubiquitous as intimate, big turkey dinners with family.

Building emotional intelligence is a crucial function of an early years education program. In the early years, cognitive functions are rapidly developing and as self awareness begins to take shape, so do social and relational cues become internalized. Developing empathy as an essential principle to guide interpersonal interactions should be the key aim of socialization activities that are incorporated in early years curricula.

The careers of the future demand less knowledge and « process memory » and call for more social and intuitive resilience and responsiveness. With rapid advances in technological innovation, a greater number of careers will become automated and obsolete. But the need for intuition, to connect with others, respond and adapt to cultural and situational differences, is a distinctly human capacity that will be vital for further innovation and for new solutions to social problems to continue being generated. In other words, while the act of creation can be delegated to machines, socially responsive innovation will forever remain the domain of human beings, driven by the idea generation process uniquely attributable to the give and take of human relationships. Nurturing emotional intelligence in the classroom is thus fundamental in order for today's youth to be equipped to adapt and survive in the future economy.

Thanksgiving may not be the only festivity in which thankfulness for greater things is the central theme, but it certainly holds a distinct place within Canadian culture, reinforcing the nation's humble value of expressing gratitude for all things big and small and symbolically reminding us of the reasons behind generation after generation of Canadians that are thought leaders with the desire and ability to do good, at home and abroad.

Happy Thanksgiving from Maple Bear Burj

Maple Bear

Gobble gobble everyone!

Communicating with your child about staying safe

Last weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada, and in true Canadian style, Maple Bear Burj students marked the occasion with turkey craft (made with recycled materials, of course!) and autumn activities in the preschool garden right here in downtown Dubai.

Thanksgiving is celebrated annually in Canada. The October holiday revolves around appreciating good things and connecting with the people that make each day possible and each day great. In classrooms, students often work together to create art and crafts that relate to the season but also incorporate mindfulness in the way of recognizing the importance of gratitude.

At Maple Bear, the teachers and students talked about about being thankful. Our very self-aware preschoolers were not shy to share what they held dear to their heart. We talked about friendship and the things and behaviours that make us good friends, and of course reminded each other about the joy in sharing. From toddler to nursery to kindergarten, all classrooms also listed their school as something they are thankful for - delighting the teachers who in turn are thankful for their students.

As in the true spirit of thanksgiving, giving and sharing of food was an essential part of the day's activities. We learned where food comes from, the importance of being thankful for animals that provide us with nourishment in so many forms. The students were taken on a journey of butter making - they got to milk a cow, take turns 'churning' the butter, and then share their freshly made product with their friends!

As we mentioned in our previous post, building emotional intelligence is a crucial function of an early years education program. In the early years, cognitive functions are rapidly developing and as self awareness begins to take shape, so do social and relational cues become internalized. Developing empathy as an essential principle to guide interpersonal interactions should be the key aim of socialization activities that are incorporated in early years curricula.

Thanksgiving is truly a holiday that builds empathy and brings families and communities together. It also drives self-awareness and self-positivity, not to mention positive thinking and gratitude. With so much to be thankful for, it only makes sense to make a holiday of it!

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Learning to stay safe can start in preschool!

Maple Bear

It is crucial in these times to assert the importance of staying safe and knowing how to spot danger, as well as how to stay safe in a high risk scenario. By practicing emergency preparedness with kids and discussing subjects and phrases such as 'stranger danger' and 'silent drop' at school, Maple Bear aims to make effective physical safety measures intuitive to our young ones, all the way from Toddler class to Kindergarten 2 . Key to successful emergency management in a preschool environment is an ability on the part of the staff to enforce procedures in a calm and effective manner without causing undue stress or alarm to the children. At Maple Bear Burj, a playful approach is adopted without compromising the key lessons that the kids are intended to learn.

Communicating with your child about staying safe

Although we are blessed with strong public safety enforcement, particularly in downtown Dubai, parents are encouraged to discuss and practice a family emergency preparedness plan with their little ones and to help them recognize when to act quickly.

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Green Initiatives Program being introduced at Maple Bear Early Learning Center

Maple Bear

In preparing students for a global future, the Maple Bear program integrates socially conscious thinking and behaviour, both in the curriculum as well as in day to day aspects of school administration.

We are proud to announce that this year, we are introducing a green initiatives program which involves a fresh take on all aspects of the school day. Along with introducing measures such as reduced paper consumption and waste recycling, we are going to be working with parents and students to sustain the cycle of reduce, reuse and recycle at home.

This week, a reusable stainless steel water bottle has been sent home with each student, labelled with the name of the child it belongs to. These bottles are BPA free and non-toxic, and we encourage families to use the bottles at school and even when on the road and out and about. Together we can help reduce the enormous number of plastic bottles that end up in landfill daily, and do our part to make the future more sustainable for the next generation.

Along with the eliminating plastic water bottles, Maple Bear classrooms will be :

  1. reducing plastic consumption in all aspects of the school day (for example, eliminating the use of plastic straws and bags in the classroom in crafts and activities) and substituting with sustainable and recyclable materials
  2. adopting the use of recycling bins in the classrooms to segregate, reuse, and recycle waste
  3. developing an understanding of the harmful long-term effects of waste, such as endangerment of other species and habitat loss
  4. hosting events and activities for parents to see how far the school has come in reducing our ecological footprint
  5. eliminating dependence on paper in school operations (fun fact: we have reduced the number of paper tools used in school administration to just 1!)
  6. monitoring energy consumption and working to conserve power at the school

We will continue to share milestones in our greening journey with parents and the community as we implement the initiatives of the program, and welcome feedback and suggestions to do an even better job.

Easing back in to it: handling settling-in regression in the nursery years

Maple Bear

Back to school means back to routine, and that’s often easier said than done after months of kicking back, beating the heat and getting away from it all as families often do in Dubai. So when the doors open and the bell goes off, Maple Bear teachers are ready to welcome big grins - but also prepared to work through getting settled in over the coming weeks.

Yes, we may already be weeks in to it, but believe it or not, for many toddlers it still hasn’t been long enough to accept the new routine comfortably.

Post holiday Separation anxiety

Even if your little one is a returning student to the nursery, chances are they may be a bit overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of a full classroom. For many, the separation anxiety may be threefold. Perhaps grandma and grandpa were around for the summer, doting on every antic and showering uninterrupted attention. Often , mom and dad have more time and a less hectic work load, affording bigger cuddles and longer story times. The attention deficit is not easy to adjust to, especially in the tender preschool years, when reaffirmation of positive behaviour is key to learning and emotional development. Sustained positive interactions with caregivers further healthy self-identity formation and are thus sought and cherished.

Finally the return to school likely means a different classroom and new teacher. Suddenly, your little one finds herself separated from the teacher whom she built a bond with over the course of the previous year, and the person she trusts to guide her as she explores new concepts and acquires new information is no longer standing at the front of the room applauding as she masters it all day by day.

So, beyond the probably upside down bed time, the funny snacks and new places, return to school means the end of a phase - not always welcome news to little ones who just wanna have fun.

Ease in to it

Not only can parents make it easier by giving their little one the time to adjust but phasing in the transition to the school week schedule before it all hits is key. Start getting to bed - and up - in tune with the timings that are required for your school day preparation and commute. Try getting out and about at the same time : even if it means just going for a quick coffee run or an breakfast play date, resetting activity schedules to align with the kindergarten day will help your toddler set expectations for meals, snacks, naps , and play.

Back at it

Don’t be frustrated if it takes a few weeks for your preschooler to go bounding back to class. Remember, too, that regressions happen, especially in the younger years. There’s bound to be a lot of energy in the classroom and lots of chatter with new friends and old. Sharing, exploring, creating, and learning are exhausting! If it’s been a few weeks and your little one is still clinging to your leg at the sight of her teacher, it doesn’t mean she’s going to skip out on participating the moment you leave the nursery or school. Create excitement around the activities being done in the classroom, and chat about friends, teachers and even desks and crayons in a positive way. Take a few moments to colour - mimicking the same activities in the comfort of the home will build a sense of ease when she remembers just how fun it is.

The best preschool teachers know that it’s just as hard for you to leave when your young one is uneasy about being left. Most early years teachers will be happy to give you a few extra moments to get your tot settled in, but arriving early enough to participate in morning warm up activities, rather than smack dab at circle time, are much more appreciated and much much more easier to slip away from comfortably.

The early years are packed with rapid growth and newness at every turn, especially so in Dubai where often families are new and strangers are from all over the place. Let your little one be a little one for as long as they need, and welcome your preschools’ efforts to partner with you in making the transition week by week, year by year, until it truly is time to be a big girl or boy.

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Celebrating Canada’s 151st birthday with Canadian Business Council

Maple Bear

The Maple Bear Burj team had a blast celebrating Canada Day this year with the Canadian Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates (CBC Dubai) and their guests at the CBC Dubai Canada Day Celebration. On Saturday June 30th, the CBC hosted a spirited afternoon with lots of patriotic members of the 40 000 strong Canadian expat community in the UAE. Along with all the great sponsors and partners of the event, including Canadian University Dubai, Careem, Weslodge Saloon, Tim Hortons, and Canadian Specialist Hospital, Maple Bear Gulf was thrilled for the chance to collaborate with the CBC Dubai and to host a kid’s play area inside the venue, at the Hilton Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Guests of all ages were seen having their face painted with a Maple Leaf and the little ones tried their hand at jenga block inuksuit creation, canvas painting (can you guess what the design of choice was? hint – it features a leaf!), along with Canadian word search activities, party swag, and story time with Ms. Ohood.

Over at the Canadian photobooth, families enjoyed the chance to create red-and-white memories with a big top hat, a frame and other maple-leaf adorned knick knacks.

We were particularly proud of the bunting our students lovingly designed and shared with the Canadian community in Dubai, and were also excited to offer 2 weeks of participation in the Summer Forward camp, between now and until end of August, for new students joining Maple Bear Burj in September 2018.

The delicious buffet presented at the event was followed with fun – and sometimes challenging! - Canadian trivia games. Each of the teams proved to be tough competition as amazing facts about Canada were learnt. For example, did you know that the UAE Dirham coins were minted at the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg? We didn’t either!

While thanking partners and sponsors, CBC Dubai Chairman Eric Koeman noted that the size of the Canadian expat community in the UAE demonstrates that Canadians are able to adapt and embrace diversity anywhere in the world – a cultural value that is an essential part of the Canadian identity. Maple Bear Gulf is honoured to have been able to play a role in make Canada’s 151st birthday memorable for Canadian families in and friends of Canada in the UAE, and we look forward to collaborating with the CBC Dubai in the future.

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The Maple Bear global network brings school owners together

Maple Bear

With over 300 schools in 16 countries, Maple Bear truly is a global organization. Along with informing themes of intercultural understanding within the curriculum, the global span of Maple Bear means that school owners enjoy the advantage of learning from each other’s experiences and growing their schools together through connections formed within the Maple Bear network.

In May, the President of the Maple Bear Brazil School Owners Association Frank Barcellos visited Maple Bear Burj and met Leena Narain proud owner of Maple Bear Burj, thé branch in Business Bay Dubai. Frank’s visit was sparked by his desire to explore the best practices his colleagues in other parts of the world are employing in stewardship of their school while sharing those applied at Maple Bear schools in Brazil, as well as having a chance to see how the Maple Bear education system adapts to complement regional customs, meet local regulatory requirements, and deliver the highest quality of education while maintaining its unique Canadian methodology of instruction.

Both school owners exchanged insights and look forward to sharing expertise, as well as to have the chance to host each other again soon.

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On International Day, Maple Bear students learn to celebrate the global future

Maple Bear

Living in Dubai is like getting the best of all worlds. This is a city that is home to people from every corner of the earth, all sharing in the opportunities and successes that the dynamic, rapidly changing metropolis offers.

The Maple Bear program teaches tolerance and respect for one another from the early years. At Maple Bear Burj, we are thoroughly excited each year to celebrate international day. Like Dubai, our preschool is a second home to students of unique cultures and heritage. And being Canadian, we take every chance to celebrate multiculturalism and to celebrate diversity.

This year our students showed off the pride they each have in their heritage by inviting their parents to tour each continent from which they and their friends come from. We had the whole world in our classrooms! Songs, traditional dress, and of course food of all kinds of flavours was shared.

Dubai is indeed a city of the future. It represents today what tomorrow’s world looks like - increasingly globalized, with identities trespassing borders, and careers of the future demanding mobility and cultural sensitivity. The Maple Bear program integrates a sense of global citizenship into the curriculum preparing students to learn at all academic levels in the future, and in any part of the world during their academic journey.

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Healthy teeth mean healthy speech

Maple Bear

No matter what else may be going on in the day, seeing a smile blossom across a preschooler’s face always brings joy. Keeping those pearly whites clean and healthy is crucial - and not just because they complete that adorable grin.

Dental health has a strong correlation with proper speech development. Teeth play a role in pronunciation and articulation of words and syllables. Remember that temporary lisp you had when you lost your front teeth in Grade 2? Whether they are baby teeth or the adult teeth that eventually replace those, teeth are an essential component of the human speech production system and language acquisition.

Dentists recommend that brushing should become part of the bedtime and breakfast routine as soon as the first little tooth pokes through. In fact, it’s good to get into the habit of cleaning your baby’s gums even before teeth have come in. It is also much easier to avoid plaque build up, cavities, and the related discomfort and damage that comes with that, by maintaining a healthy diet that is low on sugary foods. Finally, avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle: the milk sugars (found in breast milk, formula, and cow’s milk) that remain lingering in the mouth after baby dozes off contribute to speeding up tooth decay - and the sucking action on the bottle is even linked to ear infections!

Good oral hygiene resonates in both the immediate and the long-term, and establishing simple habits early in life will help keep the spark in their speech and sparkle in their smile for life.

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Fire Safety on international firefighters day

Maple Bear

Sound the alarm, slide down the pole, get fired up, we’re ready to roll! Here come the Maple Bear fire marshals to the rescue!

On May 4, we revisited the importance of understanding fire safety and practiced ways to stay safe in the case of a fire emergency.

Fire safety is an important part of the Maple Bear curriculum - learning to recognize the signs of a fire emergency and knowing how to respond becomes intuitive when practiced regularly. Fear is natural in a dangerous situation, but effective self-regulation techniques can be taught and applied to help manage emergencies, keeping toddler aged children safe by enabling them to cooperate in a unfortunate situation.

Along with a fire drill at school, our Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 class got to show off their fire marshal skills at Kidzania Dubai Mall, where they aimed water hoses into the ‘smoking’ building in their firefighter gear. Sirens and firetrucks added to the authenticity of the experience. One thing is for sure, we’ve got lots of brave little ones here at Maple Bear Burj.

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Maple Bear Burj raises funds for Pink Caravan

Maple Bear

The Maple Bear Burj team thanks all families at our nursery for their generosity during the #CHECKYOURSELF breast cancer awareness event in October. Together, we contributed AED 3204 to Pink Caravan, an initiative of the Friends of Cancer Patients UAE, dedicated to combating breast cancer in the UAE.

Breast cancer is the leading killer amongst cancer related deaths of women in the UAE. With basic screening and early detection, countless lives can be saved, but raising awareness of the signs to look out for remains a crucial endeavour in Dubai.

Parents shopped for pretty pink things from Pink Caravan along with yummy baked goods charity bazaar, encouraged by our preschoolers.

Dr. Virginia Midrigan, OB-GYN, and Dr. Lali Pataridze, Pediatrics at Medeor Downtown Medical Centre hosted self-examination workshops, and offered their time and expertise to our guests who learnt how to detect symptoms, what signs and risk factors to look out for, including answering questions relating to breast and maternal health including lactation, baby reflux, and breast changes during and after pregnancy.

Knowledge is power, and learning about the risks, signs and symptoms is the first step to conquering fear.The event empowered families at our nursery to spread the word and encourage other women in their own circles to check themselves routinely.

We thank again our partners, Medeor Downtown Medical Centre as the exclusive healthcare services provider for this event , as well as Pink Caravan, Friends of Cancer Patients UAE, and Emirates Red Crescent for their support and participation in making this event possible.

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Hugging infants can actually alter their DNA

Maple Bear

Valentine's Day is typically associated with romantic love, but the purest and most valuable iteration of this emotion is, without a doubt, between a parent and child. Researchers at the British Columbia Children's Hospital have found that hugging infants can actually alter their DNA - revealing, that "in humans the simple act of touching, early in life, has deeply-rooted and potentially lifelong consequences on genetic expression."

According to an article published by the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, children who had experienced greater distress as infants exhibited an underdeveloped molecular profile in their cells by age 5. Distress in infants is caused by a lack of bodily contact from adult caregivers, and excessive periods of neglect and unattended crying.

The implications of the underdeveloped cellular makeup are not minor, with effects in both biological and psychological development, indicating a possibility of poor overall health of the child over the longer term. A follow up study will be undertaken by the research team to determine the magnitude of the implications of the “ ‘biological immaturity’ … in these children ... for their health, especially their psychological development.”

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Our big little grads are off to great places

Maple Bear

June 7th was a big day for our little ones - the Maple Bear annual graduation and moving-up ceremony took place at the Oberoi Hotel in Business Bay. This year, the nursery marked commencement with a Seussical to the theme of Oh the Places You’ll Go!

We also took this memorable milestone as an opportunity to highlight the immense artistic talent in this year’s student cohort. Families had the pleasure of browsing an art collection displaying some of the great masterpieces produced by our preschoolers over the course of the academic year. While many were individual pieces, some of the canvases were collaborative projects , bringing unique perspectives together into one masterpiece. Right next to the gallery was a photo corner, which featured graffiti cushions that are the handiwork of the graduating Kindergarten 2 class. The event ticket also featured the whimsical take of one of the grads on the illustrations in Oh the Places You’ll Go!. The winning entry was selected from submissions to an art competition which was held in school a few weeks leading up to the ceremony.

Along with certificates being awarded to acknowledge a successful academic year, our students took pride in musical and athletic performances, and were recognized for their talent in the full range of extra-curricular and language activities that they participated in over the year - soccer, Arabic, French, tennis, karate, piano, you name it!

We’re not gonna lie, seeing the little ones in caps and gowns made us all just a little teary eyed. All the teachers wish the alumni the greatest success in their future learning journeys, and look forward to welcoming back the younger ones into the next grade in September.

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Projects, play, and papa in the preschool years

Maple Bear

Father’s day is a great excuse to give and get bear hugs from the big guy, but it’s also a chance to reflect on the special role dad plays in the early years. In the earliest days of life, the first “safe place” away from mom is the arms of dad. This bond is further nurtured when fathers actively participate in caregiving, as well as taking up opportunities to interact and play, contributing positively to the separation process from the mother and healthy self-identity formation for the child.

Play of course, is often the domain that dads love to stake out as theirs, and one which Maple Bear actively promotes in early years learning. Perhaps unsurprisingly, approaches to play differ between mom and dad, contributing thus to different learning outcomes. Studies show that while moms tend to focus on imagination and idea based play, dads more often engage with activities and projects. While playtime with mom can help creative and cognitive skills, dad’s playtime style will enhance collaboration and interpersonal abilities.

Big fun with the big guy also tends to include more new ideas, risk taking and challenges than with mom, furthering ambitious and innovative approaches to tasks.

In the early years, when play is the research of children, we thus have a lot to be thankful for deeper benefits of the light hearted moments with dad.

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