The first thing that struck me when I entered through the front doors of Asland Academy in Richmond, BC, was the combination of warmth and organization. The structure of an early learning academy was definitely there though it was offered in a way that was inviting to the children, and myself. When I was first introduced to this Reggio-inspired preschool academy, I was quite surprised to learn that it was run out of a home – especially after having a conversation with School Manager, Natalie Qiu, who was very professional when sharing their philosophy and curriculum. In fact, I was so intrigued that I decided to go pay her a visit in person.
Approaching the front door, I was greeted by a cute little lion and asked Natalie about it. She asked me if I had ever read The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. I noticed the twinkle in Natalie’s eye as she patiently waited for my reply. Of course, Aslan The Lion! Natalie smiled and nodded. “That’s right”, she added.
INTERVIEW WITH NATALIE QIU, SCHOOL MANAGER OF ASLAND ACADEMY
BC PARENT: Can you describe your philosophy to us?
NATALIE: At Asland Academy, each child’s individuality is respected by us focusing on how to support their multifaceted development in life.
BC PARENT: Can you unpack this for us.
NATALIE: The creativity and curiosity of each child is encouraged so they can express themselves and explore every part of our program eagerly.
BC PARENT: Can you share how promoting their creativity and curiosity contributes to their academic development?
NATALIE: Through exploring their creativity and curiosity, our children are eager to take the initiative in understanding our world and this results in them growing into little scientists and investigators as they constantly explore and inquire the world around them.
BC PARENT: What role do you play as educators in supporting the learning for the children through their own exploration?
NATALIE: We follow the interests of each child but within the structure of our program. For example, if the children are interested in a certain aspect to a theme, we will delve deeper into it with them without interrupting the overall learning objectives that we have for each unit so the children gain exposure and satisfy their curiosity through inquiry and creative expression, while still also learning the prescribed outcomes we have planned, though this is done in a child led manner so we are able to hold onto the interests of our children and keep it fun and educational and the same time.
BC PARENT: Can you explain to us how your approach makes your program child led within the context of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.
NATALIE: As Asland Academy, we focus on how each child’s individuality is respected and this supports their multifaceted development in life.
BC PARENT: You have intentionally chosen to have mixed ages in your program. Can you explain to use what benefit you feel this offers to the children in their development, both socially and academically.
NATALIE: Besides being a community built by the children who live and participate here, Asland Academy is also a place where children of different ages help one another. Everyone learns to take care of themselves as well as their friends, colleagues, and colleagues. In addition to their self-esteem and awareness, each child will be able to express themselves courageously, regardless of their diverse backgrounds.
BC PARENT: What are the expectation of the children in your program?
NATALIE: Children at Asland Academy are given the chance to try new things and learn from our teachers. One important choice that our children have is that they can choose for themselves when they withdraw from an activity whenever they are ready to move on.
BC PARENT: Reggio-inspired programs include nature as a foundation. Can you explain how you have incorporated this aspect into your program.
NATALIE: Children at Asland Academy will have the opportunity to explore and breathe in the beauty of what around within our space, both outdoors and indoors. We do this by planning our daily lessons for our children to learn about the environment that we live in and how to preserve it. In addition to teaching our students to appreciate the wonderful creation of Mother Earth, we also teach them how to preserve and share its beauty.
BC PARENT: Tell us about the academic curriculum that is part of Asland Academy and how this supports Kindergarten readiness.
NATALIE: Academic learning is another focus of Asland Academy as part of the development of our children. In combination with all the different tasks the children participate in, academic learning is also scheduled and tailored to meet each child’s needs and strengths. This is why our small class sizes provides our teachers with focused attention to be able to support each child’s growth and ability to pave the way to prepare them for bigger challenges.
BC PARENT: Well, we are very impressed with the scope of your program and how tailored this feels for every child. Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share with us?
NATALIE: With love, kindness, and resolve, the children of Asland Academy will become independent citizens of the world. Through our specially designed curriculum, they will learn how to advance their social, physical, intellectual, cognitive, and emotional skills, so they will be able to succeed in the future!
You can learn more about this program here and about the school aged programs that are also coming soon!