How Did It All Start?
Our school of Peoria, AZ began in 2013, at an off the beaten path location, in a 1960’s former elementary school. It was hard to get to, had little to no curb appeal, and was in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It was a risky location, but, it was a risk that paid off…
When Christa Niven, founder and current CEO, first viewed the property, she didn’t just see acres of towering evergreens, she saw a play space forest.
It was magical
With little alcoves in the woods perfect for winding paths that led to outdoor classrooms. It was perfect. She took the risk…
What happened after that, now defines the experiences at all our schools and campuses. It may seem counterintuitive, but it has proven time and again to be a recipe for success.
Lead with the outdoor spaces that are representative of the community surrounding the schools.
Capitalize on the beauty of nature in school site selection.
Next, share the vision of a natural play space with customers.
Our School of Peoria, Arizona
Traditionally, the franchise preschool model begins with a building…
Most people would agree: preschool buildings are sterile, even when the intent is to create a homelike environment. The is because the entire campus is built to an adult aesthetic.
Sure, it’s attractive. It is neat and well-organized and typically offers large and well-developed adult spaces.
Now envision the traditional child spaces. It’s likely you envisioned cute, brightly colored materials and maybe even an abundance of shiny accessories and decorations.
The reality is: These buildings and spaces are rarely inspiring to children.
Our School Model of Peoria, AZ
offers a very different experience!
Our School Begins
By envisioning child spaces that are large outdoor spaces. They are filled with small places to bring just a few children at a time as well as spaces for the whole school to gather. There are houses made of sunflowers, vegetable gardens that are also outdoor classrooms and tree houses where the children gather for story time
The buildings on our school campuses are launch pads.
The “school” work of the day takes place outside for as many hours as the climate allows.
Christa’s work with the “Kids First Program” led herself and husband, Jim, to begin serving as therapeutic foster parents.
They ran a therapeutic foster home serving boys between the ages of 14-18, self-identified as drug/alcohol impacted, who had been largely adjudicated, and often expelled from at least one school and as many as four.
Over the course of the Niven’s foster career, a total of 33 teens lived with the Niven family. The Nivens also adopted three children and gave birth to two biological children.
2005 - The Work
Of creating preschools began in 2005, with the help of a neighbor and business partner.
Over an 8-year period, three schools were built all based on the foundation of Reggio-Emilia and Conscious Discipline.
These schools were consistently recognized as the best in their communities and awarded recognitions and accolades.
2016 New Beginnings
As leadership emerged at our school of Lynnwood, and new partners, Zac and Ron Sgro, joined the team.
The Nivens relocated and Christa began our school of Dripping Springs, Texas. This campus began as 3 very small classrooms, housing a total of 28 children.
After just 3 months of operation, a second building was added, taking total enrollment to 110 children.
After 17 Months
A third building was added taking the total enrollment to 213 children.
Very different from its sister school in Washington State, this campus looks and feels like a working farm with pigs, children, rabbits and sprawling gardens.
The buildings are metal barns of sorts, continuing to invite the spirit of Dripping Springs to shape the campus.
Like its sisters, our school of Boerne was a beautiful addition to the quaint community of Boerne.
A 1930s cottage, neighboring family house and several garages and outbuildings were converted to child spaces for this sweet shabby chic village of a school.
We are also very excited to be opening additional schools in other states and has even started its first international location in Josefina, near Tamarindo, Costa Rica.