Salt Spring Early Learning Centre began as “SSI Daycare”, established in 1978 by a group of dedicated islanders that included local educators Barb Aust and Robin Andison.
In 1983, the SSI Daycare Society was formed, and ran SSI Daycare with a volunteer board of directors and a committed group of additional volunteers and charitable donors. SSI Daycare Society obtained status as a “charity” for the purposes of the Income Tax Act, which enabled it to issue tax receipts for charitable contributions.
SSI Daycare acquired a reputation for delivering high quality early learning. It attracted capable and loyal staff over the years, including Aileen Neish, manager for many years, and Andrea Hollingsworth, who served over 25 years including a period as manager. These two women in particular were instrumental in the success of the early learning centre.
SSI Daycare eventually became Salt Spring Early Learning Centre, to reflect the evolution from “daycare” – which sometimes leads people to think of “child-minding” – to modern, research-based early learning, delivered by trained and certified early learning educators.
The Early Learning Centre had the disadvantage of not having a permanent home: it operated from rented premises, and moved several times over the course of its first three decades in operation. In 2009, the SSI Daycare Society was extremely fortunate to receive a legacy donation from a family whose daughter had attended the early learning centre. That once-in-a-lifetime donation, combined with some savings and financing from VanCity Credit Union, enabled the purchase a permanent home that will allow the renamed charity – the Gulf Islands Early Learning Society – to continue providing top-quality early learning for the foreseeable future. That permanent home at 115 Drake Avenue is a beautiful and largely-restored century-home (built in 1910), set on a large lot, with a yard that backs onto a forest. On January 2, 2012, the Salt Spring Early Learning Centre began serving island families and their children in its new home.
In 2015, Salt Spring Early Learning Centre opened its first Hobbit House, the start to a Hobbit village that will serve as a playground and will also connect directly to the early learning curriculum delivered inside our Centre.
Having secured a new home for the Salt Spring Early Learning Centre, the board of directors has turned its mind to the early learning curriculum. The board has established the goal of offering early learning that is on par with the best in the world. As a start towards that goal, two Salt Spring Early Learning Centre teachers attended further education in the Reggio philosophy of early learning at Bishop Strachan School in Toronto in 2015, and the Society is fundraising to finance best-in-the-world early learning education for our teachers at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The International Centre is regarded as the leading source of intellectual development of early learning education over the past 70 years.
In 2016, the board of directors named the Salt Spring Early Learning Centre’s building the Laurel R. Bauchman Building, in honour of Laurel, who served on the board for many years, including one year as chair, and whose two children attended the Centre. Laurel died in 2011.
Staff, board members and our supporters share the view that early learning changes lives.