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What we love most about our work are the people we work with. We’re very proud of our natural play community here at Natural Pod and to celebrate some of the people in our community, we’ve started a short series we’re calling our Natural Play Community People Profiles. Short interviews with some of the great people leading the work of using natural play to inspire creativity, learning and compassion in our early learning, kindergarten, preschool and daycare communities.

Our featured natural play community profile person this week is: Dina Ottoni-Battistessa, Co-founder and Director at AKIDEMY Early Learning and Care

What inspired you to be an educator?

I have always loved working with children. I started out as the community babysitter, camp counselor, school volunteer and eventually found myself doing a practicum at the preschool I went to as a young child. The children amazed me and challenged me with their curious minds and their incredible approach to learning. After completing my bachelor’s degree in child studies and working with a network of different early childhood professionals; my passion continued to grow alongside my skills. I am continually inspired by my own three boys, my peers and the children I work with every day!

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

My favorite and the most rewarding aspect of my work is cultivating relationships with the children in our program and watching them grow over their years at AKIDEMY. We are building strong community roots by providing a quality program to the families we serve in Calgary and that is also very rewarding.

What best describes the unique aspects of the program that you offer?

Our programs are a place where children can succeed in a safe, nurturing environment. Children are provided opportunities to explore, discover, and express ideas through hands-on learning experiences. We are a Reggio Inspired program and weave many of the philosophies approach into our environment and programming. Our environment is quite unique as it is not a large space but we are able to provide an exceptional program using innovative and unique space design and equipment. We have overcome many challenges with our space and have achieved a successful niche and unique concept that has attracted many families to our program.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change in your learning environment?

We would love to have a larger studio space and more storage. Because of our program size we often have to store equipment offsite. As for our studio, who wouldn’t love to beef up their “ateliers” with more shelving to hold even more loose parts, clay, paint, wire, beads, shells and the children’s works of art…