by JAMILA YOUNG
Imagine Nation is both a school, and museum. It aims to be more than a traditional school for kids. On Wednesday, Nov. 13, it celebrated its 15th anniversary.
“I’ve been here for 20 years. I’ve seen the progression from when we started,” said curriculum Administrator, Laurie Nadaeu. “We were kind of your typical preschool program. We don’t drill and skill kids here. Everything we do is geared towards them, but it’s embedded in everyday activities. Rather than forcing kids to learn this stuff, it’s more natural, it’s fun, and it’s hands-on.”
They implement the Reggio Emilia approach of education with students. This approach has teachers observe and document a student’s way of learning to cater their lessons to the students for easier learning. It also means having real everyday items in the classrooms for students to become acquainted with. Some examples of that are the real stove and refrigerator in the play-kitchen area, and real packages of mail in a real mail bin, so the students can get a feel for delivering mail and receiving a package.
Nadaeu said they also use “loose parts” as another way of helping students learn. “I am big with loose parts, so I provide a lot of the materials that they use,” said Nadaeu.
“Loose parts are collections of materials, and it can be anything from nuts and bolts to glass beads, keys. Anything that can be collected together. We set them up as provocations. It’s designed to provoke interest within the children. ‘Oh I see this; I want to play with it. What is it? How can I use it?’” explained Nadeau.
“We have nine classrooms – eight preschool classrooms, and one mix-age, six weeks to three years old,” said marketing manager Heather Grance. “We have 25,000 visitors a year that come through the museum, and we have 126 children who come here for school every single day.”
Director Coral Richardson has been with Imagine Nation for 12 years. “What keeps me here is making a difference in families and children’s lives,” said Richardson. “The opportunity to work with creative, intelligent professionals in the Early Childhood field, and in the museum world. It’s been quite an adventure of evolving, changing, and trying to state-of-the-art, and provide quality services to our community and beyond.”