Project Profile: WonderWell Preschool
WonderWell is a first-class private preschool in Austin, Texas. Their mission is to inspire children’s’ innate curiosity and instill a deep love of learning. Ashley Reinhardt, the founder, deeply believes that children learn best when their learning is personally meaningful and relevant to their own interests and lives. On this basis WonderWell was created to embrace emergent curriculum and the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood education.
We first met Ashley when she was searching for learning furniture for WonderWell that supported the Reggio Emilia philosophy. As Natural Pod’s values are in perfect alignment with Ashley’s, our sustainable, flexible learning furniture was exactly the solution she was looking for. Fast forward to today and WonderWell is a unique, beautiful, state-of-the-art learning environment for two to six year olds. Bridgitte was excited to visit WonderWell on a trip to Austin for some meaningful collaboration time, and deeper conversations about what the intentions are with the WonderWell space. Ashley is such a joy to work with and so passionate about her work, she claims it was really her first child that inspired her to create such a wonderful school. Her love of learning, years teaching in the early childhood classroom, and collaborative graduate courses at the University of Texas where she gained her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, have all equipped her with the knowledge and skills that have made and continue to make WonderWell successful.
Emergent curriculum inspires and extends learning based on student interests as opposed to a ready-made curriculum with predetermined facts and information. A Reggio-inspired school is relationship-driven and encircles the child with three teachers or protagonists: the parent, the teacher, and the environment; these relationships are interconnected and supported by the school. Ashley felt so passionately about the Reggio Emilia philosophy that she travelled to the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy with a group of educators to gain hands on experience of its teachings. This was a huge turning point for Ashley and she became deeply committed to implementing the philosophy within WonderWell. This, she has achieved beautifully.
The philosophy extends to viewing children as competent individuals who are capable of taking an active role in their own learning. Teachers are co-constructors of knowledge and work alongside students to observe their interests and interactions in an effort to design experiences that inspire their innate curiosity. Teachers design provocations to “provoke” children’s thinking, research, investigations, and hands-on exploration. The classroom environment, seen as the third teacher, should be a beautiful, clutter-free, inviting learning space carefully planned and organized with natural, open-ended materials; set up to be flexible and responsive to student needs and interests.
WonderWell is a 16,000 square foot state-of-the-art building with a 6,400 square foot outdoor classroom where the children can play and interact with the natural world as much as possible allowing space for limitless, authentic discovery. The photos below show the incredible learning environment Ashley has created with WonderWell. We just love the photos illustrating the creative freedom the students have as they paint the tables ‘ceilings’.
Thank you for a fantastic visit Ashley!
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From left to right: Bridgitte Alomes CEO of Natural Pod, Jennifer Seydel the Executive Director of Green Schools National Network, and Ashley Reinhardt the founder of WonderWell.