Monday, July 28 2014
Recently, GoPlay! was deemed the VPK option of choice by a four year old who had toured various childcares with her family. When the tours were over she insisted she wanted to go to "the OWL school!” The Owl she is referring to is our beloved mascot, “Ollie”.
I am pleased that GoPlay’s mascot helped GoPlay! to stand out among other schools in this child’s eyes, though this isn’t Ollie’s main job. Mascots are used in preschool programs to welcome kids and provide familiarity. Earlier in my career, I used Alvin, the famous chipmunk, as our class mascot when I was the teacher in a classroom ironically named “The Chipmunks”. A classroom mascot can be used in a variety of different ways to help build a unity among the children. Ollie, however, is not a class mascot; he is the school’s mascot. He is as unique a mascot as GoPlay! is a childcare.
Preschool mascots have traditionally been used as puppets that help share rules, mediate issues and promote social skills. GoPlay’s Ollie is not a puppet. In fact, he is (in my opinion) a poorly designed plush owl. When I was hired as director of GoPlay! I was introduced to Ollie as the school mascot. The plush Ollie that I was handed looked nothing like the character drawn on the wall and much to my dismay, the school had purchased a case of these owls! So, I embraced the stuffed creature and took him under my wing, one would say.
Ollie’s role became more than an object to help children feel more comfortable. He became a source with which to get children excited about our preschool program. Ollie introduces and participates in our weekly themes. He takes on a role at our story time theater, sometimes having a corny joke or a riddle. He often receives mail from celebrities or other mascots. Ollie lives at GoPlay! and since he shares his home, it is his set of rules the children must follow. He also invites guests to GoPlay! and once a month even allows parents to come to his “social”.
Mascots are an important part of promoting a company, school or team. Our mascot has become part of our logo. He wears many hats – literally. Ollie dons his headband during the fun run and his graduation cap when promoting VPK. He may not have a charismatic English accent like the Geico gecko; in fact, nobody ever hears Ollie’s voice. Ollie only talks to the teachers at GoPlay! But even without a voice, Ollie provides instant recognition, or for some 4 year olds, just enough recognition to know they want to go to “the Owl school".