The Lion and the Mouse - Montreal's coolest play school and children's activity centre - to hold family Halloween party this Thursday
Le Lion et la Souris (The Lion and the Mouse) is the kind of place we all wish existed when we were kids. Tucked away in a loft building on Casgrain, the massive space bustles with energy as children make crafts, read books, and play with instruments - not even aware that they're learning in the process. The centre was co-founded by Margaret Fraser, Cameron MacLean, and Megan Cahoe-Kennedy, who decided after extensive conversations with parents, teachers, friends, and family that children should have a chance to explore their natural environment and be active contributors to their own learning. They accordingly offer a variety of services aimed at fostering children's growth and helping working parents in the process.
This Thursday, they are hosting a family Halloween party, complete with a costume parade, bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating.
As they get ready for the big event, we spoke with the co-founders about the centre, its programs, and its future.
First off, what initially inspired you to start the centre?
Cameron: Margaret and I were inspired by initial conversations about a lack of such a space in the Mile End. There is Tasse Gamine, where I have been incredibly happy to work and which is a wonderful place, which provides a drop-in cafe atmosphere for parents and young children - but there was not a place like ours which provides both educational workshops for kids and halte-garderie services on a daily basis. There are lots of traditional garderies around, but few options for families wanting part-time activities on a regular basis. We are an alternative to these typical daycare - particularly given that we emphasize the role of the kids themselves as co-creators of community, which gives them such a strong role in helping us design programing and plan activities and work right alongside us in making this place a beautiful and vital and continually growing community.
The Lion and the Mouse is running with only three co-organizers. What kind of background does everyone have?
Cam: I am a musician and arts educator for young children. I have done arts programming for young children for different organizations, along with playing music professionally, for several years.
Megan: I have an educational and professional background in education research and Community Economic Development, with over ten years' experience working with young children as an educator and child care provider.
Margaret: I have been a schoolyard garden animator and online outreach coordinator for the Concordia student parents centre, hold a graduate diploma in Community economic development, and have years of working with kids in the Mile End.
Was the choice to remain non-profit an easy one? What were some big factors in that decision?
Margaret: For the three of us, the choice to be a non-profit community centre was obvious. We wanted to provide an important service for families in our neighborhood, not profit from their need for it! Megan and I having done a graduate diploma at Concordia in Community Economic Development was a big factor too. Having studied various financial models made us even more certain that being a social entreprise made sense for us, our families, and the larger community.
You talk a lot about community involvement - what does this look like?
Margaret: Some of the things we have done so far include having professional artists with experience working with children to come in to host a one-hour atelier. We have also recently started a partnership with Catalina Pop, a local theatre teacher, for her theatre workshop New Land Reveries, which is taking place until mid-November. We'll also be welcoming Grace Shamy, a local mom with experience working in a Steiner school in Scotland, every Monday morning for our journees francophones. And, of course, there's our Halloween party this Thursday!
Ideally, what are some long-term goals for The Lion and the Mouse?
-Garden involvement - connecting kids to nature in this way
-Becoming a community hub, being a community centre and resource centre for parents
-Events for parents
-Of course, the ultimate goal is to inspire healthy, happy children who grow into critically engaged, active community members!
Explain an average day for a tot-sized Mile End citizen at The Lion and the Mouse.
Margaret: The day starts with a little free play while we wait for all the kids to arrive. This gives us a chance to see what the kids are interested in right now so we can follow up with it and be sure to support their growing interests. Then we have our circle time, welcome everyone with a poem and read books or sing songs related to what's going on that day, then we usually head to one of the parks down the street from us or to the Champs des Possibles to explore. The kids love to look for snails and crickets. With the weather being so nice this fall we've been having our circles and snack outside too. While we make sure to go outside every morning, time inside in the mornings often include music with Cameron, painting and sometimes ateliers hosted by special guests from within the local artist community. Then we make and eat lunch together with the kids and they head home at 1pm. Those staying on in our afternoon halte-garderie communautaire snuggle up for stories and quiet time so they'll have energy to play again in the afternoon!
How much will it cost to parents to send their budding little Mile Ender to The Lion and the Mouse?
Margaret: Our cost is $30 for a morning playschool workshop (9-1), or $40 for full-day care (9-5). If a parent drops their child off only for the afternoon halte-garderie it is $15 for the afternoon. This includes all snacks and meals. While we aim to be flexible and respond to the needs of our families, we do ask that they sign up for a minimum of two days (full or half-days) per week. Monthly tax rebates for are available.
What other programs are happening?
Margaret: Catalina Pop is running a kids theatre class Saturdays from 12:30-3:30 and as of November 2nd we'll have a 4 week ukulele class with Cameron Saturdays from 4-5. There's still space to sign up for either class. As of Monday November 4th we'll be starting a special version of our morning playschool, les journees francophones. It will be similar to our regular morning program but will be led by Grace Shamy completely in french. More programs will be starting in the new year!
Is there any way people for people to get involved?
Margaret: We are always looking for creative people who have experience working with children in this age range and would like to come host an atelier for our kids, be it once or on a regular basis. We can also always use extra hands for helping us plan some of our community activities and events. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about volunteer opportunities.
Le Lion et la Souris / The Lion and The Mouse is located at 5333 Casgrain (#316).
The Halloween party goes form 3-6pm and trick or treating will take place among 40 different businesses in their building from 4-10pm.
Image by Ohara Hale