At the beginning of September, Sandy Hill walkers were delighted to discover a new point of interest in the neighbourhood. Flying monkeys in the trees; two striped feet wearing ruby slippers sticking out under a house; a yellow brick road chalked on the sidewalk; a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion suspended on the iron fence—what was happening at Bettye Hyde Cooperative Early Learning Centre? Starting at the painted rainbow on Blackburn, the Wizard of Oz story was displayed for the entertainment of adults and children alike. Around the corner on Osgoode was the story’s final affirmation: “There’s no place like home!” It took on new meaning in these pandemic times.
“We felt a little magic during this crazy time would do a world of good,” explained the Centre’s director, Janet Leblanc. “Educators Sue Baillie, Ernest Blais and Bridget Klinger all helped guide the preschool-aged children through the art projects that were displayed in the show,” she continues. “It also doubled as an opportunity to mark a graduation for some of our friends who didn’t come back after the closure in March.”
While the Centre was closed this spring and summer, educators met with children online. Among other activities, they read the story of the Wizard of Oz to the preschool group and showed them illustrations from the 1939 movie. When children returned in person, the art project created a link to what they had shared virtually. The preschool educators did the planning, but the children did the execution. Sue Baillie describes the process to create the tornado: “They all stood around the black surface and dripped glue in swirls and tangles. Then we sprinkled glitter everywhere.”
Other elements of the story were created by repurposing found objects. On a walk around the neighbourhood, one of the children spotted a door in the trash and said, “We could use that!” Painted bright green and leaning against the fence, it became the door to the Emerald City. A styrofoam packing form, painted black, served as the wicked witch’s castle, complete with blackened figures from a discarded table-football game.
Our local child care centre certainly succeeded in brightening up the neighbourhood and providing a destination for daily walks with children. More than one family was heard singing, “Follow the yellow brick road” as they skipped along the yellow chalk on the sidewalk, dreaming about what may be over the rainbow. If you go by now, look for the rainbow on the fence on Blackburn and a monkey still flying in the tree on Osgoode.