Institute Blog
Creating Community Remotely

Creating Community Remotely

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.4.2″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.4.2″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.2″]Here in Seattle, where all public and private K-12 schools are currently closed or practicing “remote learning” for the foreseeable future, some preschools have also closed temporarily, in accordance with statewide advisories for social distancing.

At Hilltop, which serves 120 children starting as young as age 2, our building has been closed for over a week, and our educators are doing an AMAZING job working from home to support the children and families during this closure. They are staying in close communication with families through blogs and e-mails, they are filming themselves reading favorite stories, they’re offering creative activities and challenges for children and families to do together at home, they’re sharing stories and pictures of their own “home days,” and more…

While Hilltop is closed, our educators will continue these efforts to keep children and families connected with each other, as we all do our part to stay home and slow the spread of COVID-19, and they’ll also use this time to support their own professional growth in many ways, including reading and writing articles, developing presentations, and enrolling in online courses. Many educators are also engaged in advocacy for our field, and in seeking resources for families and colleagues more significantly impacted by current societal changes.

I’m truly humbled by the grace with which families have supported our need to close the school, and by the dedication with which our educators have committed to retaining a sense of community while we engage in critically necessary social distancing. Some examples of strategies and ideas from our own classrooms are listed below.

The impacts of this pandemic will be felt strongly and widely, and will hit some people and communities harder than others. Hilltop is tremendously fortunate to have all the supports and advantages that we do, and I am moved and impressed by what educators are doing on behalf of our own group of children and families.

How are you connecting with your children, families, and community during these challenging times? Please feel free to share photos, videos, ideas, activities, or words of affirmation in the comment section, below.

Here is list of just some of the strategies and systems Hilltop educators have been trying this week:

  • Daily communications from educators to their classroom, through e-mails, blogs, and videos
  • Regular virtual meetings of each educator “teaching team” and their “Mentor Teacher” to coordinate and brainstorm family communications and other ongoing work
  • Virtual class meetings and “circle time” gatherings, using GoogleMeet, Zoom, etc.
  • A Hilltop YouTube channel, with videos of educators reading books, cooking at home, caring for their children and pets, etc., as well as classroom-specific sharing of photos and videos

Note: Within the channel (which gives families access to all the videos) we’ve created classroom-by-classroom “Playlists” so children can watch content specifically from their own teachers.

  • A classroom-specific GoogleDrive with collections of activities to try at home, video recordings of stories and activities to try, and folders for families to contribute stories and photos of home activities
  • Recording and sending out daily installments of audio recordings from the classroom “Chapter Book” that was being read at naptime
  • Issuing “Family Challenges” of activities to try at home and share back to the group: I Spy activities, drawing prompts, and other invitations for children to share their creations and experiences with each other
  • Writing and sending out thoughtful documentation from recent weeks of the children’s work and play
  • Supporting families with strategies and tips for their days at home, such as the importance of routines, ideas for setting up provocations and invitations to play, recipes for sensory materials, etc.
  • Preparing for and holding “Developmental Conferences” with families, on virtual platforms, to discuss each child’s strengths and areas for growth

Sarah Felstiner is the Education Director at Hilltop Children’s Center, where she has worked since 1995.


Learning in relationship is one of the core values Hilltop aims to bring to life. Through support and organizational integrity, Hilltop is able to support educators and develop structures that enhance reflection and uphold program values.  Interested in exploring such models?  Join us for either a Study Day or a multi-day visit to Hilltop to see child-centered and reflective practice in action.  Talk directly with program leaders and educators from Hilltop classrooms, witness real-life examples of successful long-term project work with young children and closely study and discuss effective structures for values-based Administrative Practices.  For more info, email Mike at or visit our website at

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