Over two years ago I met Arianne Betazzi at a baby shower. I was there with my son Frankie who was about six months old and Arianne was eight months pregnant. We connected over motherhood, surfing and organic gardening. We became instant friends and soon after spent many days with our sons and husbands at the beach, meeting at the farmer’s market and having dinner together.
One afternoon, Arianne and I met at the farmer’s market for lunch. I was ready to start teaching again, but wasn’t quite ready to put Frankie in a daycare or preschool. I asked Arianne if I could schedule a tour and mentioned that I was interested in the idea of preschool, possibly for next year. In the meantime, I was hunting around for a part-time art teaching position. She mentioned that her school was planning to instill an art curriculum and wanted to hire an art teacher. I let her know that I taught children, teens, college students and adults. I took maternity leave when Frankie was born and did not want to leave him until he was ready for a school environment.
My mind was spinning with lesson ideas for children. I was excited and enthusiastic about this possible opportunity not only to teach children, but to work with my friend and have Frankie with me at school. This sounded too good to be true. Arianne invited me to visit Carmel Mountain Preschool to discuss this opportunity.
Last March Frankie and I went to CMP for a tour and to talk about the art teaching position. Arianne showed me the school and I met all of the teachers and staff. I remember how friendly and kind everyone was. Frankie loved being on the playground and we both felt an immediate connection to the amazing school. We toured the school first and then Arianne walked me up to “The Glenn.” She informed me that this space was not being used and this is where she wanted to build an art studio and garden center for the kids. I was blown away by the beautiful space. It was lush, full of plants and flowers and had plenty of space to build an art studio. I was impressed that a preschool wanted to create a space specifically for art and nature. This said so much about the authenticity of the school. I was inspired, excited and enthusiastic about writing a proposal for an art program at CMP.
Much has happened in The Glenn since the day I took my first tour of CMP. I was hired along with Joe Hardy to work together in The Glenn. I’m responsible for the art program and Joe takes care of the gardens, grounds and teaches the children all about reptiles and creatures that live in this magical outdoor classroom. During the first couple of months, Joe and I invited the students to join us to learn about art and gardening. The programs were receiving positive feedback and teachers and children enjoyed visiting us. We later decided that we needed classrooms: one from the arts and one for nature. In May Joe and I met with Arianne, Pauline and Dan. We all came to the conclusion that it was time to build classrooms in this beautiful space and planned to make it official.
First the existing storage unit was converted into The Studio, which was located in the center of The Glenn. Massimo, Arianne’s husband, and her father, Dan were the architects and builders. They completely renovated the space by cutting open doors, layering in hardwood floors and installing skylights. Massimo even built a custom work table and countertops for the children.
The Studio is PERFECT! There is so much light and room for the children to explore, create, imagine, play and have fun with materials. Nature, plants and animals surround The Studio. The children are always excited to watch the hummingbirds and look to nature for inspiration. It is a magical space that both the children and the teachers love.
Next they built Joe’s cottage. We call it “The Nature Lab.” His family of reptiles including snakes, lizards, frogs and tarantulas all live in this space. Large garden beds surround The Nature Lab. Here he teaches children to compost and grow fruits, vegetables and flowers. The garden is continuously changing. We are currently growing pumpkins, broccoli, kale, tomatoes and herbs. We also have a full bed full of sunflowers.
I love watching the kids come visit The Glenn to learn. Joe educates them on what is happening in the garden. Last week he found a green worm on the tomato plants and informed the kids that this was a Horned Green Tomato Worm. He moved the worms into a safe space where they watched weekly as the worm transformed into a cocoon and later a moth. This is the type of learning that children will never forget; it is magical. Nature is their classroom.
Both The Studio and The Nature Lab continue to evolve as Joe and I nurture the grounds in The Glenn and educate the young minds at CMP. I’m very fortunate to work for a school that cares so deeply about education, creativity, learning and exploration. These children are receiving timeless experiences and I’m proud to say that I am a teacher and my son Frankie is a student at Carmel Mountain Preschool!
Blog by resident art teacher at CMP, Julie Goldstein.
Carmel Mountain Preschool provides a safe and caring environment with hands-on, developmentally-appropriate programs for children. We also offer excellent care for elementary school-age students with our before and after school programs. CMP is located at 9510 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego CA 92129, situated between 4S Ranch, Rancho Peñasquitos, Carmel Valley, and Santaluz For more information, please visit our website or contact us at 858.484.4877.