Creativity & joy are not canceled in San Clemente as Gratitude Garden Preschool opens their virtual classroom after new coronavirus closure.

By Ashley Ludwig, Patch Staff

SAN CLEMENTE, CA — A San Clemente preschool forced to shut their doors due to the new coronavirus social distancing rules opened up online sessions this week, they tell Patch.

The virtual classroom of Gratitude Garden in San Clemente is up and running though there have been some snags in setup, Director Erin Rice says.

“Tuesday morning we went live for the first time,” she tells us.
Moms and kids joined the virtual circle time, all greeting each other through their small windows to the world on the computer screen.

One year ago, the Rice family celebrated their son’s release from Children’s Hospital, Orange County. The video of then 8-year-old Cooper Rice dancing with Dr. Tony upon exit went viral.
Now, they are thriving along with their preschool families, even while socially distancing.

Though it may have felt a bit foreign for the kids at first by the end of circle time, the energy and enthusiasm of the kids grew.

“It was a terrific way to stay connected and for me to be able to join in the experience,” mom Tandi LeFranc said on Facebook.

Rebecca Stark agreed, adding, “it gives them a little normalcy during this crazy time.”

Gratitude Garden is known locally for being STEM-focused in their curriculum. The school offers 21st-century skills through engaging imagination, curiosity, and critical thinking. Some of those skills have proved essential in pivoting with the new constraints social distancing has put on schools, businesses, and lifestyles in Orange County in the wake of new coronavirus.

This week, Gratitude Garden launched with virtual classrooms, virtual storytimes, and even virtual tours of their “worlds.”

“Families are really feeling a sense of community during this time,” she says.

When one family had difficulty logging in for their “morning circle time,” the director met them in a virtual classroom, making sure they were good to go for the next circle time meeting.

“In a world that is getting more isolated, we are bringing a community together,” Rice says. Gratitude Garden is not alone in this venture.

“All across Orange County, preschools are banding together to provide hope, joy, and creativity to families around the country,” she says.

The group also celebrated a virtual dance party to “Bugs, Bugs, Bugs” by Pinkfong which, if you haven’t heard it, may ear-worm its way into your world.

Outdoor lessons are coming soon, Rice says, at least when the rain stops.

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