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Leah Kippomee: Developing children and early childhood education in Nunavut

Year: 2020 — Province: Nunavut
Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Pirurvik Preschool
Preschool program for children ages 3 to 5 years
Pond Inlet, Nunavut

Leah's use of Inuktitut and cultural engagement in the preschool environment allows children to thrive, and provides them with a positive first engagement in education that will affect their lives for years to come.


Leah Kippomee is an adored community child caregiver and now an advocate for early childhood education across Nunavut. Her centre, where she is the Lead Teacher, won the $1-million 2018 Arctic Inspiration Prize. As a result, Leah is now sharing her expertise with seven other Nunavut communities to change the educational experience for both parents and children, and help overcome the legacy of the residential schools era.

Philosophy of care

Leah's Nunavut-made approach to early childhood education is child-centered, based on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge)—in particular Pilimmaksarniq, the principle of allowing children to learn at their own pace—and enriched through the use of Montessori materials and practices.

Support of child development

  • Introduces hands-on learning materials to children when they are ready, allowing them to use them at their leisure, following their natural curiosity; this experiential approach optimizes each child's unique development and creates a classroom of engaged and happy learners.
  • Employs cultural materials and activities to allow children to connect with their lives at home and in the community, including seal skin scraping and stretching, lashing together the parts of a Qamutiq (sled), playing string games and bone games, and telling stories with a felt board or finger puppets.
  • Fosters the learning and use of Inuktitut through books, songs, syllabics and stories from Elders—all helping make a positive beginning to children's learning.
  • Uses observation to get to know the children, how they spend their time at preschool, and which activities they are drawn to, so she can provide the children with what they need, when they need it.

Involvement with parents, families and the community

  • Encourages parents to participate in culture activities at the preschool, to integrate at home what the children are learning at preschool, including practical life skills and fine motor skills, and to set up areas of the home to foster children's development, learning and confidence: a spot where a child can reach their own dishes, a step stool so they can turn on the taps and wash themselves; a quite area for them to play. 
  • Uses Inuktitut at the preschool when sharing stories and encourages parents to do the same by exchanging ideas, feelings, opinions, hopes and dreams, and reading stories and playing games with their children to develop language skills.
  • Emphasizes the importance of local input into child care: works with daycare boards to help them apply the local knowledge—including of community child-rearing practices and resources that can be made by local artisans, sewers and craftsmen—necessary for developing an Inuit–Montessori framework for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in one cohesive environment.

Get in touch!

Pirurvik Preschool
Building 233, P.O. Box #431
Pond Inlet NU  X0A 0S0

Facebook: @pirurvikpreschool

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