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Spring Gillard
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Education Goes Off Track

I was at Hastings Park on the weekend when a building with two green roofs caught my eye. Turns out it’s the Hastings Park Childcare Centre opened in April 2011 and operated by Kiwassa Neighbourhood House. The 7,100 square foot facility has 44 full-time spaces for children up to five years old. The high performance LEED Gold green building was designed by PL Lovick Architect. It has beautiful views of the North Shore mountains and the Hastings Park race track. The  4.4 million dollar centre  was funded through Hastings Racecourse and Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.

And that brings me to why I was there. My family was in town and we were initiating my two nephews (2 and 8) into a long held family tradition: learning how to gamble. My two brothers and I were practically raised at the track. We loved collecting the colourful tickets, hearing the trill of the horn announcing the horses were coming out onto the track, running to the fence to watch the horses parade by, then predicting the call of the announcer – would he say “There they go” or “And they’re off.” From an early age, I developed quite a knack for winning, based on liking the names of the horses or a gut feeling.

Other members of my family enjoy a broader spectrum of gambling (bingo, lottery tickets, casino offerings) – but this is the one form we can all agree on and enjoy together. And so, on Saturday, we introduced my nephews to this unique form of familial education. The boys got to practice reading (the racing program, the forum) and writing (their picks onto the program). They learned some math skills (odds board, counting their winnings and losses), how to manage excitement when their horse came in (jump up and down) and disappointment when their horse didn’t come in (jump up and down). They also picked up some strategies and life tips from various family members (always bet the grey, anything can happen on the curve, Auntie’s on a winning streak so go with her picks, don’t order the beef sandwich during a recall or just play it safe and become a vegetarian).

Despite their proximity to the track, I presume the daycare does not employ these educational techniques.

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