by Nikeeta Singh and Dr Darius Singh, Founders and Directors of Chrysalis Group
A child’s development in the early years is largely determined by their family and schooling environments coupled with the meaningful care and life long passions that can be emblazoned on their hearts during these early days. We all know that love and care is core to it all – like roots of a tree, but how much do we consider the tender young tree’s environment – its lighting, fresh air, nutrients, nurturing, and open space to discover and grow?
If the environment your child is in at daycare has fresh air circulating throughout the centre; if there is natural lighting throughout; if there is ample space for running around or finding quiet nooks (i.e. we are talking beyond the Ministry of Education’s legal minimum of 5 sqm per child outside and 2.5 sqm inside!!); if there is natural beauty to admire and be inspired by; and if the building and playground spaces are designed to manage noise and stress levels, then it can make a significant positive impact on your child’s overall health, well-being and development.
In fact, it can significantly impact on a teacher’s health, well-being and energy levels too, and you can definitely sense this all once you step just two steps inside any centre.
Having designed and built nationally award winning centres in our group for our innovative teaching and learning spaces and environments, we know that (much like a new home) once the building plans and playground spaces have been defined and drawn up, this is the permanent canvass for the rest of all time, that teachers will be expected to magically create imaginative, inspirational and innovative activities on a day to day basis.
While it is unfortunate to drive around town sometimes and see crammed-up, warehouse-style, cookie-cutter, “investor” signatures all over what they call “child care centres”, we want to focus on those “good-sort” centre owners whose hearts and passions are in the right place and who commit to creating “wow” factor places that inspire children, parents and teachers to want to belong to and feel proud of.
Hence, after 7 long years in the making of our Chrysalis Group of Early Learning Centres, and after much encouragement from the community who have heard our story, we want to tell you the “behind the scenes” passions, messages and meanings in each of our centres. These have all helped shape our centre environments that judging award panelists and other professionals from around the world have commended us on.
Our group of unique and meaningfully named centres…
Chrysalis (Rosebank Rd, West Auckland), Magic Kingdom (Blockhouse Bay), Milky Way (Newmarket), and Fern Garden (Tauranga) – pride themselves for giving children more amazing natural environments and more opportunities that we ever had growing up. Our ultimate goal is to launch the steepest trajectories in each child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development before they enter the unprecedented pressures and paces of the new “consumer age” and new “hybrid digital” age that have been created for them over the recent generations.
The moment you click on our website the first phrase will make you wonder what we mean by “childcare like never seen before”. This is a genuine statement that parents and education professionals have repeatedly told us, so let’s have an in-depth look at why they believe you haven’t seen anything like our centres before, and why our child care designs are the talk of the town (and internationally), and how our carefully thought and planned environments provide enriched learning experiences for your child.
At Chrysalis, Magic Kingdom, Milky Way and Fern Garden we believe “…by using innovative design features, we excite the minds of all who enter our environment, stimulate the hearts of all who occupy our environment, and rejuvenate the souls of all who seek deeper reflections, visions and sense of purpose from our environment’”.
Why we won “Gold” in 2015…
- Our “Gold” awarded Chrysalis Early Learning Centre building in Avondale was envisioned by owners Nikeeta and Darius to be the shape of a curved waka with 100 sails (representing 100 cultures of NZ). Just as the original wakas were used to embark on intrepid journeys and discoveries, we see our Chrysalis “ship” transporting your child into an intrepid journey of lifelong resilience and learning.
- Our Chrysalis waka is powered by 100 sails and all our parents and children can identify a sail of their own that their ancestors used (i.e. whether Polynesian, Melanesian, English, Dutch, French, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, African etc etc) who all took to the oceans once upon a time, with nothing but the guiding light of the stars, hope, courage, and belief in themselves and each other.
- We see all our children like this – we see their anchoring qualities deep within them that their ancestors once displayed a long time ago. While it is difficult to display intrepid journeys like that in today’s modern world (i.e. like heading off into an unknown ocean in a waka – with no GPS!), we know that those qualities of resilience, care, leadership, and courage are there in us all – and our job is to bring this out in your child by the time they leave us ready for school and relationships beyond.
Spaces that honour the past and vision the future…
- Our Chrysalis hallways are laser-lit projections of the flowing and swirling local Whau river onto the floor. Did you know that the Whau river is the only body of water that flows right through NZ (in an East -West cross-section)? This river has a deep connection to early Maori and European settlers in the area with references to the swirling patterns in the waters that can be seen even today. Being a few streets away from this river, we wanted our hallways to be a mark of respect and honour of this, so we decided to bring this to life for our children and families to connect with and treasure each day.
Spaces that transport you into a magical place…
- Our award winning Magic Kingdom Childcare building in Blockhouse Bay was a chance for Nikeeta and Darius to design a one of a kind transformation with a peaceful NZ rainforest entranceway, taking you (and them!) away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland city. Complete with the sounds of tui, gentle forest and river sounds and peaceful tunes that seem to come out of the walkway itself, we wanted to create a haven from the outside world where parents, teachers and children would be completely immersed into our vision of a magical world for learning, growth and discovery.
Spaces that are Imaginative, Innovative & Inspirational…
- Our Magic Kingdom playground and sandpits are amazing transformations that take our babies and toddlers away into the craters of the moon (!) – a magical landscape that emphasises basic shapes, moon rocks and a wonder of the universe.
- On the other side of Magic Kingdom’s playground, our older children are instantly transported into a treasure island where they can dig along the sandy shores for buried gold and jewels left by pirates!
Our continual improvement (Kaizen) approach…
- Our Fern Garden Preschool & Child Care Centre is a truly unique environment that has been renovated recently to bring about Nikeeta and Darius’ vision for open spaces, natural lighting and airflow, views throughout the centre, kitchen overlooking the backyard (just like the good ol’ days). Our homely building is located among Tauranga’s most established residential neighbourhood of Otumoetai. Part of the outdoors is under a giant canopy, which provides for outdoor play come rain or shine. This is a huge advantage and stress reliever (for both teachers and children!!) at times when it rains for days on end, when most centres need to keep children indoors. Parents can be usually heard saying “oh wow” in every tour we have, when we turn the corner to show this unique space.
- Deeper past this huge canopy at Fern Garden lies our “infinity forest” where we project our own backyard trees far into the horizon way beyond our fenceline borders. It’s amazing how different the world looks when we adults crouch down at a child’s height to look around. From their perspective, they see an endless forest that stretches far out into infinity and this is exactly the effect we want to have – not on parents and families, not on teachers and visitors, but on the minds and hearts of our precious tamariki, who will be guardians of such beautiful places in the future.
Spaces for our imagination…
- We believe in the immense value of unstructured and undefined spaces where your imagination is all you need, so in Chrysalis (Avondale), Magic Kingdom (Blockhouse Bay) and Fern Garden (Tauranga) we designed (respectively) giant indoor cocoon pods, a giant indoor tree, and a giant indoor fern tree with no purpose in mind other than “bring your imagination with you inside” and each day we find children inside reading, playing, having lunch, and even sleeping and dreaming away!
Spaces where we can dream…
- Since the dawn of time, we have never had complete “pitch-black” darkness – there was always moonlight and starlight to guide our path. So we created a quiet “dream space” in all our centres, and together with peaceful, soothing instrumental music, we project a life-like replica of the night sky onto the ceiling of our sleep rooms, so your baby can sleep under the stars. We cant wait for the day they will recognise constellations in the starry sky when they are adults, but may never quite place just how and why they feel connected to the universe so much! Be sure to remind them!!
Multiculturism? – what’s that big word mean?…
- We might be the first childcare centre in the world to have united traditional Pacific hut designs and built them all proudly standing side by side together in our very own “Pacific Village”, including traditional Maori “Wharenui”, Samoan “Fale”, Fijian “Bure” and Native American “Teepee” huts. Our vision is for our children to naturally see this as the “new normal”; that they wont feel anything “special” about the word “multiculturalism” when it is branded about to them in the future. Our children will likely just turn around and say, “what’s the big deal – what else does a team look like?”
What does it feel like to be “a little bit married”?…
- Sustainability to some is like saying “I’m a little bit married”. We take an “all or nothing” approach. We were one of the first solar powered and rainwater reharvesting daycare centres in NZ and we were the first child care centre in Tauranga to implement the Tauranga City Council’s worm farm project to turn our food scraps into compost.
- Our deep commitment stems from our basic appreciation that “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature,” (https://www.conservation.org/nature-is-speaking). So while countries still engage in conflict over control of energy reserves, and while global mining and energy companies still have powerful economic and political strongholds within many leading countries, our simple vision that will hopefully be echoed by our children 20 years from now will be, “why cant the world just simply get on with solving its biggest problems like pollution with 100% renewable energy systems everywhere, and why can we empower people living in poverty by installing things like solar panels into remote villages and towns – just like my kindy showed me 20 years ago!”.
- We believe the problem of poverty in parts of the world is not about food at all (there is ample food on this planet), it’s about getting clean energy into remote areas to pump water, run irrigation systems, sanitation and grow crops as well as provide electricity for lighting, heating, cooling and machinery etc.
- Imagine the day when renewable energy sources will be widespread enough to bring environmental stability and balance to the world? We feel that we can either complain every day or simply get on with it ourselves and lead by example in the hopes that our children will remember us one day when it’s their turn to be the “guardians of influence” and “ambassadors for change” in the world.
Our own trademarked Play Garden® concept…
- We don’t nearly make as much of a big deal as we should that our indoors is over 1.5X as spacious and that our outdoors is up to 2X as spacious as it needs to be according to the Ministry of Education’s legal minimum standards that many centres only barely meet. Our generously spacious play areas and our own trademarked “play-garden®” concepts are purposefully designed to connect your child with nature and bring about an intimate understanding of sustainability and respect for the world.
Fruits of the Earth…
- Our fruit orchards in our centres provide fruit of all kinds all year round for our children who regularly discover, learn, taste and enjoy a connection with nature, its patient timing of the changing seasons, its nurture and protection for all life, its perseverance and rewards, and its never ending cycles of “trial and error” and sustainability. We owe it to our children to provide opportunities for their earliest memories to be filled with wonder, belonging and a deep connection with all life in the world.
Brand new furnishings every 2 to 3 years…
- Furniture in a daycare centre can be the first thing to deteriorate and start looking worn down. It can get damaged, marked, torn, dented, and lets face it – we all wish for a home makeover of curtains, couches, tables, appliances, etc once in a while, right?
- We are proud to be a leader in the ECE industry and be the first to introduce another innovative and sustainable business model – this time with our key education resource suppliers, whereby all our play furniture (i.e. chairs, tables, couches, combination sets, workbenches, carpentry, shelves, art trolleys, light tables, even some outdoor equipment etc) gets replaced with the latest brand new designed furnishings and equipment every 2-3 years!! That’s right – our centres continue to look as attractively brand new every couple of years or so with all new furniture. We wanted to invest back into our centres this way to ensure we could offer huge advantages in:
- a) keeping us up to date with the latest styles, designs and innovations in educational equipment and resources;
- b) keeping our teachers continuing to research new, innovative and exciting activities for your child; and most of all,
- c) ensuring that your child is surrounded by the best of the best environments, because …. well … because you and your child deserve it and it’s the least we can do for the privilege of working with you to guide your child through these early years 🙂
Building childcare centres might be a straight forward task for anyone with a team consisting of a planner, engineer, architect, builder, landscaper and a bank (!), but one of the most important things for any parent to find out about a centre is: “who is behind the scenes in this centre, and what evidence can I see about their visions, messages, and lasting impacts for the future that will be emblazoned in my own heart and my child’s heart, forever.”
Look for that truely “childcare like never seen before” experience the next time you walk into a centre.
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