Director Nicole Javadi Braaten says her school, With Our Own Two Hands Preschool and Learning Centre, could not be in a more perfect location. Nestled amongst shops, in the heart of a thriving family community, within close proximity to parks and the waterfront makes this the perfect home for her busy nature based preschool, which opened on Moncton Street in July 2011.
Braaten has always loved working with kids. She holds a psychology degree and worked for several years with the Vancouver School Board as a student support worker. In addition, she has been a part-time yoga instructor for the past eight years.
With Our Own Two Hands follows the Reggio Emilia approach to early education based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery. Compassion and empathy are the pillars of the program in combination with a holistic approach to education through the practice of daily yoga, which helps to provide a calm environment and helps set children on a lifelong path of peace.
Parents have the option of enroling their preschooler in either a morning or afternoon class. The flexible program allows for part-time or full-time attendance.
Each day of the week offers exciting opportunities ranging from instruction in yoga, science, math, music and movement, art, dance, languages (French, Japanese and Mandarin are all taught). Children learn the alphabet, how to write and other important academic skills in preparation for kindergarten.
Learning to socialize is another important skill that is nurtured. Time is spent each day interacting with one another at table groups and at circle and snack time.
Being situated in such a walkable community allows for plenty of fun field trips to local businesses. Classes have visited the vet, naturopath and fishermen at Fisherman’s Wharf. Students learn about nature first hand by observing eagles, swans, birds and fish. Local parks offer opportunities to play, fly a kite and dig in the sand.
Some of the best moments have included spontaneous walks up to the river to watch an early winter sunset. During the warmer months students spend much of their time outdoors.
In addition, relationships have formed with neighbouring merchants such as The Candy Dish that provides leftover boxes for crafts.
“It is our hope that children will learn from a young age to become aware of their impact on the environment and develop a closeness to and respect for nature and life.” Nicole Braaten
What does Braaten find most rewarding about her profession? She remarks, “Clouds, flowers… you can forget how wonderful and amazing these things are that can be taken for granted. I take pleasure in the awe that children show. They are at an age when everything is so exciting and it is amazing to be part of that experience.”
With Our Own Two Hands observes the same calendar year as the school system. During July and August an outdoor-based summer program is offered. Registration is separate from the preschool program and is open to all preschool age children.
During these sun-filled months each day presents a new adventure. Activities range from pirate treasure hunts to yoga at the beach, day “camping” with tents at Garry Point Park and bicycle safety days.
Occasionally Braaten brings her 18-month-old son Atlas to work. The preschoolers adore him and his visits help reinforce the program’s focus on empathy.
At home Braaten has a real green thumb and grows everything from quinoa to blueberries. She is an advocate of organic food and feels the school is fortunate to have its own garden where children learn to grow their own flowers, fruits, herbs, and vegetables.
Digging in soil, getting dirty, planting seeds and finding unexpected surprises such as worms is a recipe for childhood bliss.
What feedback does Braaten and her team of teachers most enjoy hearing? To hear children say they have had such a great day and they don’t want to go home ranks high on the list. Sweet and endearing comments are also a perk. A huge payoff is hearing parents say their child has come out of his/her shell, has connected with nature, and how the preschool has changed their lives.
Braaten’s passion for teaching is as contagious as the energy of the preschoolers. She concludes, with excitement in her voice, “We will be getting chicks at the school this spring!” Her enthusiasm makes you wish you were a child again, or had a preschool age child to enrol in With Our Own Two Hands Preschool.
With Our Own Two Hands
3-3871 Moncton Street
Richmond BC V7E 3A7