Dr Darius Singh and Nikeeta Singh
Our Personal Story
Our company was founded by husband and wife team – Nikeeta Singh (a qualified and experienced teacher in NZ for almost two decades) and Dr Darius Singh (a former NZ university Professor in Engineering). Both come from humble beginnings and both family histories include parents and grandparents who were also teachers. In fact, Darius’s father, Mr John Singh, is still dedicated to teaching, and has been serving at De La Salle College (Mangere, South Auckland) for nearly 50 years!! Their parents and grandparents migrated to NZ over half a century ago, in search for better opportunities for their future, and carrying little more than pocket change with them, with which to build their lives here in NZ. Nikeeta and Darius each grew up understanding one powerful thing from watching their parents struggle and work up to 100 hour weeks in day and night jobs to make ends meet. That one thing was the power of “HOPE”, as their parents persevered in hard work and sacrifice in the “hopes” that one day their children could have a better life, more opportunities, and turn dreams into realities.
Today, several decades later, Nikeeta and Darius continue that vision from both their parents, by sharing “MESSAGES OF HOPE” to families throughout their inspirational childcare centres, that all aim to “provide children with more amazing experiences and opportunities than anyone’s ever had growing up”. This became their simple vision statement for what would later become the Chrysalis Group of Early Learning Centres. Their vision was more that just a wishful “tick-box” statement – there was a powerful personal drive to achieve this – and they would do it by designing and creating world class, award-winning, & “never-seen-before” learning environments where they could proudly send their own preschool children to – and did (the ultimate litmus test!).
Their blog on “Behind the scenes of ‘childcare like never seen before” in August 2018 (which took eight years to write and build up a proof-of-concept since starting their first centre), finally reveals in detail, all the “behind the scenes” meanings for everything they have done in each of their inspirational centres and for everything they have been recognised nationally and internationally for.
Founders of the Gaia (Earth) inspired Education Principle
In essence, our Gaia (Earth) based Education Principle is a complete immersion of our centres into Buildings & Environments that live, breathe and self-energise to mimic natural eco-systems of the Earth, as well as Values, Curriculum & Outcomes for children that model and connect with Nature and Earth systems (that have already been in the making for 4.6 billion years). We are inspired by the existing philosophies of Nature based, Forest preschool, Reggio, Montessori, Emmi Pikler, RIE, Friluftsliv (open air) Scandinavian based forms of teaching and learning as we deepen and connect all of these approaches with common ground principles of Gaia (Earth) itself.
Our publication on our innovative and fully immersive approach has been peer reviewed by panels of academics and education experts for presentation at:
- ICERI – International Conference for Education, Research & Innovation (one of the largest Education forums in Europe),
- ICFL – International Conference for Future Learning, Spain,
- World Forum on Early Care and Education, Macao,
- AGU100 – Engaging Preschool Kids in Earth and Space Sciences, USA.
“We started with one of our family values which is ‘Honouring the past…Visioning the future’”, says Nikeeta, “…inspired by our parents’ values and visions of hope, we wanted to pass that same powerful message of hope to today’s families by creating never-seen-before preschools that their children could experience. So we found ourselves designing nature immersed play areas, and unique biophillic building concepts with solar power and rainwater harvesting systems, and learning spaces that model Nature itself, like playing inside a giant cocoon, or inside an entire building shaped like a leaf (!), and reading/sleeping nooks inside a giant fern tree, and large Kiwi backyard & Pacific village inspired outdoor areas, and we even went as far as designing cot & sleeping rooms where our babies could look up at a projection of soft twinkling starlight from galaxies, constellations & random shooting stars across the night sky!”.
“We then jumped into the future and continued to add personal touches and modern facilities like audio visual systems to enhance children’s dance and music experiences, KIDCAM® for parents’ peace of mind as they view our rooms from reception, and learning portfolios with our exclusive patented Learning Roots and ShootsTM program that visualises children’s progress as new leaves and branches growing on their personalised online trees. We hoped these things and more would make any parent wish they could go back in time and re-live kindy all over again and its these personal wishlists together with our dream-team of teachers that we hope will make our unique centres become one of the most talked about early learning centres, raising the bar in NZ and around the world…”
When they founded the Chrysalis Group in 2010, Nikeeta and Darius merged the knowledge, passion and experience of three generations of teaching history in both their families, into awe-inspiring places of learning for families in the local communities of Otumoetai (Tauranga), Blockhouse Bay (Central Auckland), Grafton / Newmarket (Auckland City), Avondale (West Auckland) and Manurewa (South Auckland). They have created childcare centres that are among the most inspiring, innovative, and imaginative early childhood education centres in NZ. In following their parents’ footsteps to create “visions of hope”, they too worked over 100 hours each week for years (almost every waking hour) designing and developing the “childcare like never-seen-before” features and reputation they now have earned for their inspirational and multi-award winning childcare environments.
“…it’s really humbling to have the international recognition, national awards and neighbourhood trust by hundreds of families, but it’s not that hard really as it all just stems from our core family foundations that simply holds on to hope for our next generation. It’s a real privilege for us to pass this message on and try to show these core values, visions, and outcomes to you and your child every day…”
Nikeeta and Darius Singh
Spacious & “never seen before” playground design in our popular Chrysalis centre (located on Rosebank Rd, and serving West and North West Auckland suburbs)
Our latest creation opening in Manurewa (near Botanic Gardens), South Auckland around mid 2020 – a fully inspired Gaia (Earth) based childcare centre complete with a 10,000 sqm (1 hectare) native forest to explore and play in, a giant leaf shaped building that “bio-mimics” natural eco-systems of the Earth like self energizing solar powered systems (like photosynthesis), rainwater harvesting (like a lotus leaf), and roots that connect to the Earth itself (like plant roots), and much, much more…
Industry leader: Among the first solar powered ECE centres in NZ at Chrysalis (Rosebank Rd, serving West and North West Auckland suburbs) and Magic Kingdom (Blockhouse Bay, serving West and Central Auckland suburbs) and Gaia (Earth) Preschool (Manurewa, serving East and South Auckland commutes and suburbs)
A relaxing rainforest entrance walkway with birdsong playing from the gardens, transports you away from the busy city and into our magical place at our popular Magic Kingdom centre (Blockhouse Bay, servicing Auckland Central and West suburbs)…
Our unique “rain or shine” outdoors where children can play all year round at our popular Fern Garden centre (Otumoetai Rd, serving all Tauranga suburbs)
An oasis in the heart of the city, where our parents can pop over from work during lunch times at our popular small Milky Way centre (Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket and serving Auckland City areas)
Our Vision, Values, Beliefs & Principles
Our simple vision
“Driven to lead and leave the world in safer hands than ours” – Nikeeta and Darius
Our core values
We have researched core values from around the world, our local communities, our teachers, and from this we have developed a set of life’s essential qualities/traits/attributes to sustain and propel our children through life. These qualities merge into our Gaia (Earth) philosophy to align with the four seasons of the Earth, as well as the four elements of nature. For example:
- SUMMER – FIRE:
- discovery, risk, empowerment, respect, spontaneity, achievement – are all aligned with summer when Earth shows us a time for bold spirits, progress and adventure.
- AUTUMN – EARTH:
- leadership, companionship, self-discipline, contribution, diversity, commitment – are all aligned with autumn when Earth shows us how to deal with things falling apart.
- WINTER – WATER:
- nurturing, resilience, integrity, responsibility, belonging, guardianship – are all aligned with winter when Earth shows us a time of inward reflection, coming together, and strengthening to get through life’s hardships.
- SPRING – AIR:
- openness, awareness, humility, self-reliance, continuous improvement, adaptable – are all aligned with spring when Earth shows us a time of new beginnings, new growth and change.
Our core beliefs
- “Our ‘chrysalis’ is a protected stage of development, where care is first and foremost, followed by development and transformations that are calm and unhurried, yet filled with wonder and amazement, just like Nature itself”
- “Our children are being prepared to learn throughout life – to open endless opportunities and continually create, innovate, change and improve”
- “Children should have a strong sense of belonging and inclusivity in the very communities that they will be expected to build, lead, and hold together one day”
- “We are preparing children to be our future guardians of a sustainable world with respect to and guidance from our bicultural heritage and multicultural society”
Our simple Gaia (Earth) inspired principles:
- E = Environment
- Immersion into nature based outdoor and indoor settings, designs, materials, resources.
- The environment is our teacher.
- A = Awareness
- Experiences that build confidence in self, understanding of others, & guardianship of life.
- Well-Being of children & teachers are promoted (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual).
- R = Relationships
- Deeply rooted in finding connectivity with all life on Earth.
- Promote the building of engaged, healthy, vibrant, and diverse communities.
- T = Transformation
- Learning is a journey – the process for gaining knowledge is as valued as the outcome.
- Educators are Guides, Facilitators and Enablers, rather than Experts.
- Preparing children for a lifetime of transition, change and adaptation.
- H = Holistic
- Planting seeds for a life of resilience, empowerment, competency and capability.
Our Charities, Partnerships
Charities we donate to:
Nikeeta, Darius and our Leadership Team in each centre have personal reasons for their standing commitment to the following charities. We also have a further commitment by Nikeeta and Darius to double all proceeds raised in all our charity events:
- Autism NZ
- Blind Foundation
- Cure Kids
- Muscular Dystrophy Association of NZ
- St John
- Starship Hospital – Child Cancer Foundation
- World Vision (we sponsor 5 children in a small remote village in Malawi).
Schools we partner with:
Our Centres have strong Partnerships due to our:
- Strong personal connections and support of our local communities in:
- Blockhouse Bay (where Darius attended the local daycare in 1974 [Blockhouse Bay Baptist Kindy], and then local primary schools, and where Nikeeta also lived from the age of 12),
- Grafton / Newmarket (where they went to high schools),
- Avondale (where they first met at Darius’ 21st birthday held at Avondale Racecourse function centre),
- South Auckland (where Darius worked at the Ford Motor Company Manufacturing Plant in Wiri for 10 years starting off as a graveyard shift factory assistant while studying towards his PhD; later working his way up to becoming the R&D, Technology and Engineering Manager of the company), and
- Otumoetai / Tauranga (where Nikeeta and Darius lived for a couple of years in Welcome Bay and where their 3rd child was born in 2011).
- Partnerships with over 30 primary schools surrounding all our centres.
- Special bond with over 2000 local students and whanau in nearby primary schools (Avondale, Rosebank, St Mary’s, Waterview, South Auckland) for their wish lists and design inputs into our unique Pasifica / Kiwi “play-garden” playground.
Industry bodies we are affiliated with:
We proudly promote, model and demand the highest expectations of “world class” performance in childcare and we are personally active members of the following organisations:
- Active board member of the NZ Early Childhood Council
- Active board member of the Rosebank Business Association
- Active board member of the Manurewa Community Trust
- Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management
- Member of the NZ Institute of Directors
- We host free parenting seminars EXCLUSIVE to our parents and families in our all our centres – with internationally well-known speakers from The Parenting Place. Some recent presentations have been “Top 10 do’s and don’ts of Parenting” and “Raising resilient children”. Feedback is always excellent as revealed on our testimonials page for each centre.