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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: Tristan Katz, Co-founder and Director at AKIDEMY Early Learning and Care

What inspired you to be an educator?

At an early age, I felt strongly that it was important that children felt respected, heard and valued. My parents instilled this in me, and I had many teachers along the way that carried that same belief as me, and some that didn’t. These experiences in both approaches motivated me to want to be an educator, because I wanted children to know that they had the right to be treated respectfully and as partners in the learning process. After studying Early Childhood Education and working in many different capacities in the field, I was thrilled to be able to partner in creating a place that really reflects these values.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

The most meaningful and rewarding part of my work is having the opportunity to create inspiring environments and experiences for children. I believe that children are competent and capable learners, and that our environments are reflective of our view of children. Our Reggio-inspired approach values the classroom environment highly and sees it as a participant in the educational process.

When planning activities, I strive to find experiences that consider their current interests and abilities, while providing opportunity to for the children to experiment with materials, work through questions and test their theories. It is incredibly rewarding to see a child have that light bulb moment as they are playing and working. That is how they construct their knowledge, and I think it is so exciting when they feel they have done it by themselves.

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

One of the unique aspects of our program is that our curriculum is student-led. It really is about what the children are interested in and we strive to provide an in-depth study of a topic. The teacher facilitates the exploration, inviting students to discuss their previous experiences with a topic and to share their questions and interests on the subject. Our low student/teacher ratio encourages participation, exploration and collaboration through many hands on experiences.

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

More space! We love our environment, and it functions extremely efficiently, however with some of our activities and centres we can only have things out for a period of time, instead of leaving them and allowing children to be able to come and go throughout the entire class. We would also love to expand our atelier to provide more materials such as clay, wire, paint, loose parts, and display more of their work.