NASHVILLE’S FUTURE CLASSROOMS: Many kids will not thrive in a traditional classroom so I wanted to highlight some alternative classrooms available to families in Nashville.
It is so exciting to know that these options exist because of passionate women that saw a need and met a need [insert all the heart eye emojiis].
Elle Harvey is the founder and director of A New Leaf of Nashville. A New Leaf offers a variety of Reggio inspired programs including a preschool (2-5 years old), Triangle Play (1-5 years old), and summer camps (3-10 years old) at their location on Charlotte Pike.
1. How did you learn about the Reggio model? What made you fall in love with the model?
At the All Austin Cooperative Nursery School in Austin TX when we moved there with our 2.5 year old. Parents had to spend a day a month as a teacher and I was there every day. The image of the child is very strong and the project approach is the best way for humans to learn.
2. What ‘hole’ do you think A New Leaf fills in Nashville’s childcare and educational landscape?
We support families as they become new parents and scaffold social-emotional learning as we interact as a community during Triangle Play. We empower children to explore and learn from “100 languages” in the environment around them. We provided a much needed education during a very formative time for children’s development. There is a shortage in Nashville of preschools and child care centers, parents are desperate to have a place for their children to spend the day, let alone be meaningfully engaged and happy. We are the only ones to offer an education based on nature and only a handful of us apply the Reggio philosophy.
3. I love the idea of nature being one of the teachers at A New Leaf. How much time do kids spend outdoors at A New Leaf? What kind of difference do you think this makes for the kids?
We spend more than half of our time outdoors in clement temperatures and up to 100% of our time. In cold weather we spend 1/2 to 1/4 of our time outside. We help parents find the best clothing. “There isn’t bad weather, only improper clothing” we often say. It makes a huge difference as they become part of the environment. They are nature too, animals are not just cute, they have life cycles, growth, needs, and fears. The plants and animals are respected for their own life and rights as well as all the gifts that they provide us.
4. Straying from the traditional model of education is scary because we wonder if alternative methods will properly prepare our kids for the future. How does A New Leaf prepare kids to become life long learners?
Research on development and neuroscience points to our approach as best practice. We aren’t so much alternative since constructivist theory of education is about 100 years old and education for all is a fairly young concept as well. I believe we will converge towards best practices for respectful upbringing together as a world in the next 100 years.
5. What kinds of kids thrive at A New Leaf?
All of them! If we have difficult cases, as long as the parents are engaged with us to assess problems and that we work together for individual solutions, everyone is successful.