I created this program for my son, Chiron. After searching for a play-centered program that would nurture foundations for mastery in learning and life, I realized that in order for him to have the preschool experience I wanted for him (See Curriculum and Educational Philosophy) I'd have to create it.
Being around other children and adults is essential for children to learn to navigate their own emotional landscapes and interact with others gracefully: with judicious guidance from parents and teachers to facilitate the emergence of these skills, children develop the platforms to stand on to reach higher learning and get more out of future educational experiences.
As a trained developmentalist, I think seriously about the sensitive windows for particular kinds of skills/learning and the prioritization of children's time in each stage. Our program has always placed a central focus on capturing the opportunities presented by the developmental windows of early childhood. As of 2023, we have shifted our program in an exciting way, in keeping with our central focus. We created a program that captures the opportunity for bilingualism and biliteracy: the abilities to speak, read and write two languages, by implementing a language immersion program in the Spanish language. This decision was based on a couple of key concepts:
1. Early childhood presents a unique opportunity for learning multiple languages. Young children's brains are programmed for learning language, and with the right environment, they will learn two languages simultaneously just as they learn one.
2. Learning more than one language has benefits that far exceed the ability to communicate in the second language. For example, studies find that kids read in their native language with superior proficiency to English-only kids by the time they are in elementary school and continue to surpass English-only kids for years.
3. Why not? Seriously, why not? Our kids can do it. They can benefit from it. And it's really exciting to see this happen. Most European children learn to speak at least two languages. This gives them the cognitive advantages of skilled code-switching, opens the door to further linguistic exploration, and unlocks the culture of the second language in a way that advances serious understanding as well as epicurean adventure.
Language learning occurs naturally in a nature setting that was already designed to optimally nurture children's minds. Like many parents, I observed that my child’s play became more sustained, independent, immersive, and creative when he engaged in open-ended play with "loose parts," like cars, building materials or sand. Observing these moments, I felt like I was seeing his mind come online.
Nature provides the loose parts for experimentation more abundantly and beautifully than those produced by manufacturers. Between breathless breaks to run and climb, children’s play takes on a new level of focus outdoors. Going outside under the ceiling-less sky and being surrounded by forest and creatures, rather than walls and pictures, has effects on the awakening mind that are both entirely intangible, echoing down the long passage of human history, and evidence-based--reflecting positive outcomes across the spectrum of studied development. What better place for the minds of the future to awaken than in the deep play that flows from creeks, tadpoles, and mud?
Language immersion, socialization, and play-based learning are branches of the same tree. At the center is an intention to provide the optimal set of inputs to nurture the most time-sensitive and big-picture learning opportunities of the preschool ages.
What I want most for our students, and what I always want for Chiron, is to ignite an appetite for lifelong learning, the kind of appetite that makes life richer and more delightful at every age.
With warm hopes for this lifelong adventure to you and yours,
Janelle Sawyer, Founder