Relationships are a key aspect of learning.
Learning is based on interrelationships—close interaction between teachers, parents, and children. Nanaimo Innovation Academy children, parents, and staff appreciate the warm, supportive family atmosphere here. Typically, new children and families quickly become part of our school community with ease. At various times throughout the year, there will be communal potlucks, guest speakers for the whole family, and outdoor excursions.
The main relationships we intently foster are between:
Child and teacher
It takes time for a teacher and child to develop a connection to the point at which the teacher can truly understand the child, their interests, and their needs. Children build trust by being in a steady, caring, and safe environment over time. At Nanaimo Innovation Academy, we strive to provide an ideal work environment resulting in minimal staff turnover.
Teacher and parent
Parents are a child’s primary and most influential teacher. Parental involvement is critical to the creation of a learning community for children. Our teachers learn from parents about their child to best support them. Open and regular communication between teachers and parents is a critical component of our philosophy. It may take form in many ways, but parents are welcome to join us and play an active role in their child’s learning experiences. Parents, both their skills and ideas, are very valuable to our community.
Child and their peers
Children are collaborators and work best when included in a community of learners as opposed to working independently. Therefore, we emphasize working in small groups, which is based on the idea that we form ourselves through interaction with peers, adults, and the world around us.
Child and themselves
We teach kids to learn about what they're feeling and why. It is important to help them to start listening to their body and trusting their feelings. We also teach them the tools and language to express their feelings and needs. This starts by being aware of their senses. Each sense sends information to the brain to help us understand and perceive the world around us. The first five are important and are relatively easy to comprehend—sight, smell, sound, taste, touch. The additional three are a little bit tricky but equally as important for understanding the world and how they are feeling.
Vestibular: Your movement sense or the feeling of needing to move. A teacher may ask “You're having a hard time sitting still? Maybe you need a movement break?”
Proprioception: Your body awareness sense or sense of space. A teacher may say “You're running your hand on the wall in the hallway? Let me stand next to you so you know where you are in space.”
Interoception: Your sense of what's happening on the inside of your body (feeling hungry, having a headache, needing to go to the bathroom). A teacher may ask “Are you hungry? It can be really hard to focus when you feel that way!”
Child and nature
We value the natural environment and encourage sensitivity, respect, and understanding towards all forms of life. Reducing, reusing, and recycling is also very important to us. Children will learn about environmental sustainability and will be encouraged to make environmentally conscious choices.
Child and food
The foods and liquids we consume provide our bodies with essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that keep us thriving and active. Your child must have a healthy relationship with food as our fuel for the day contributes greatly to our daily emotional, physical and cognitive function and successful development. We must take into consideration nutrition as part of your child’s environment. Often, we’ve observed the results of unfulfilled nutritional needs and the connection to a child’s ability to use and manage their self-control skills, concentrate effectively, and problem solve. If a child’s daily nutritional needs are not being met, it may affect their success throughout the day and ultimately their learning. Please see more about our Kid's Healthy Eating Project.
Child and the local community
We teach the value of community and explore our local community by holding field trips, hosting guest speakers, and forming partnerships with other local organizations.
Teacher and teacher
The teacher relationships with each other are extremely important, as they set the tone for the classroom. Teachers must be open, collaborative, curious, kinds and work harmoniously with each other. They role model positive relationships and cooperation to the children.
Daily schedule with room for flexibility.
At Nanaimo Innovation Academy, we recognize one size does not necessarily fit all. We have a general schedule for how the day should go but value a lot of flexibility to follow natural curiosity and progression of exploration, as directed by the children. The children need a relaxed pace with ample time to explore. We aim to help children make connections between various topics and activities that they are interested in, without having a pre-programmed curriculum or prescribed schedule to follow. This also means that teachers are not planning elaborate projects or learning points in advance – they’re allowing projects to emerge based on the interests of the children while still meeting learning outcomes and goals. Teachers will introduce new topics or ideas to a group, typically based on natural seasonal activities and changes. These new ideas will be explored further if the children show an interest.
At Nanaimo Innovation Academy, we utilize the best practices from various educational pedagogies-- Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio, Whole Child Education, Forest School Theory, and Play-based Learning-- without being limited by the rigidity of ascribing to just one philosophy. By being flexible and in constant evaluation of what is best for child development and learning, we innovate and create a program designed for our student’s current needs, interests, and growth.
Some key aspects of our program:
Size matters—we prefer small group environments.
A small group environment allows for more personalized attention and strong relationships to grow. Our small class sizes mean that teachers are in constant communication with one another throughout the day so that students are served with seamlessly integrated care and support. We can also spend time observing the children’s intellectual, social, and emotional progress in a meaningful way, rather than just managing behaviours and activities.
Here are our current and future class sizes:
Infant/Toddler class #1 is 10 children – 3 ECE Teachers
Infant/Toddler class #2 is 7 children – 2 ECE Teachers
Pre-K Program for ages 3-5 is 7 children – 1 ECE Teacher
Forest Pre-K Program for ages 3-5 is 14 children – 2 ECE Teachers
Kindergarten/Grade 1 class (FINAL STAGES OF CERTIFICATION) is 16 children – 1 ECE Teacher and 1 Certified Elementary School Teacher
Grade 2/3 class (FINAL STAGES OF CERTIFICATION) is 16 children – 1 Certified Elementary School Teacher (2 teachers when outdoors)
Afterschool Program for Kindergarten to Grade 3 is 10 children - 1 ECEA Teacher
If you are interested in being kept in the loop about the progress of our elementary school certification, please fill out this form.
Outdoor learning is crucial to development.
There have been many studies and research into outdoor education and child development. These studies have concluded that with increased exposure to nature and the outdoors, the learning process is boosted meaning increased creative thinking, motivation, and well-being. Children at Nanaimo Innovation Academy will be outside for a large portion of the day, rain or shine. By age 4 or 5, children at Nanaimo Innovation Academy will be outside for 50% or more of their day.
Children are capable and are naturally curious.
Children are the main initiators of the learning process. All educational and artistic endeavours are about the process, not the product. Children are inspired by their interest to know and learn, and as such, they are endowed with a uniquely individualistic understanding of how to construct learning on their own.
Children are collaborators.
Children are treated as active collaborators in their education, as opposed to passive observers or vessels to be filled with knowledge.
Teachers are co-learners.
Teachers are partners, nurturers, and guides who help facilitate the exploration of children’s interests as they work on short and long-term projects. They guide experiences, open-ended discovery, and problem-solving. The main goal for the teacher is to listen and observe the children, as well as question and listen for opportunities to encourage further exploration of a child’s interests. There is reciprocal respect that strengthens and grows between children and teachers, thus the need for using honourifics are not necessary (all teachers at Nanaimo Innovation Academy are called by their first name). Children and teachers are expected to collaborate, but it’s the responsibility of the teacher to identify when a concept can be used to further discovery and learning. Our teachers are skilled, open-minded, value differences, and respect all individuals.
The classroom environment acts as the third teacher.
Our classroom environment is designed and created to enhance and encourage learning. Classrooms and common spaces are carefully integrated with one another and with the outside community. We value an environment that builds and promotes creativity. We have a zero-screen time policy for the younger years (ages 0-4). As children age, we mindfully introduce elements of technology that provides further exploration and allow children to use these tools creatively. We discourage the use of overly-commercialized products that promote violence, gender bias, and apathy. Classrooms use natural furnishing to encourage real-life interactions. Nanaimo Innovation Academy does its best to source and use naturally made products and products from our natural surroundings and created by local providers.
Some key features of our classrooms:
Nature products – typically made of wood or things found in nature, such as plants, driftwood, leaves, and flowers.
The space is calming and not cluttered.
We do not put out a lot of toys. Instead, we have a toy rotation that is evolving and changing depending on interest and exploration.
We use as much natural light as possible.
Children’s art is displayed. Things are displayed with intention.
The classroom is designed to allow children to practise their self-help skills.
Play is enough.
We focus on the best possible ways to support you and your child, by finding new and innovative ways to engage and promote your child's social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Unstructured play is one of the best ways that children learn. We feel children need to be offered the opportunity for creative activities, such as doing art everyday, learning science concepts by building with blocks, and imaginative play with dress-up clothes. We want children to experience, rather than being a passive recipient—squishing mud through their fingers, building sandcastles, jumping into a pile of leaves. We do not do worksheets, as they largely focus on memorization and regurgitation. Children are taught through hands-on learning, student-driven projects, and natural inquires and discoveries alongside a teacher. We aim to help your child grow into an independent and confident student ready to embrace the challenges of increasing academic rigour (but still no worksheets).
Diversity of play.
Children are natural communicators and should be encouraged to express themselves however they feel they can and through whatever means they can. This may include words, movement, drawings, paintings, buildings, sculptures, and more. Because of the many ways that children express, discover, and learn, children should be encouraged to use many materials for discovery, communication, and even demonstration of what they understand, wonder, question, feel, or imagine. It is then, conversely, the teacher’s responsibility to facilitate the exploration of a child’s surroundings.
Teachers, in addition to playing the role of a guide, are also responsible for documenting the learning process within the classroom and transcribing the verbal language used by children. Teachers may take photos and even videos to better understand the children and assist parents in becoming more aware of what their child is doing. Twice a year, we also provide Developmental Narratives to parents that provide information about our observations on their child’s development. Documentation also provides teachers with an opportunity to evaluate their work and exchange ideas with others. Moreover, documentation demonstrates to children that their work is of value.