Abu Dhabi, UAE: Do not expect to see handprint pictures or scribbled crayon drawings decorating the classrooms of the capital’s newest nursery.
It will be a practice at the Kipina nursery to not hang children’s artwork on walls.
“Our concept is minimalist,” said Lynn Brucker, the Canadian co-director of Kipina, which means “spark” in Finnish.
“Occupational therapists have shown that a lot of colour and a lot of clutter disturbs children and makes them very aggressive.
“We wanted a nursery that was soothing to children, and so we have pops of colour from our logo in certain places, natural wood floors, and a very open and welcoming environment.”
The Kipina curriculum was devised by co-director Cathy McCauley, also from Canada, together with Ms Brucker and co-directors Kieran Galvin and Ali Irfan.
The programme draws on educational philosophies and practices from Finland, which regularly ranks among the top performing countries when it comes to international standardised tests. “One of the things that research shows very clearly anywhere in the world that you are is that there’s educational excellence coming out of Finnish schools,” said Mrs McCauley, Kipina’s programme director.
“We’ve taken some of the philosophies and the key one is they teach kids to love learning because once you love learning, you will learn anything and you will learn forever. So that’s the premise and the heart of our programme as well,” Ms Brucker said.
The Kipina nursery is housed in a large, yellow villa in Al Bateen. It has a large grassy front garden surrounded by plants and flowers, and a colourful playground with slides, animal springers and a small merry-go-round.
“We wanted as organic a look as possible outside,” said Ms Brucker. “We have an eco-slash-sustainability component. Connection to everything is very important for children to learn, especially nature and animals, to know that we’re connected.”
The interior features one large baby room with a rubber floor, six classrooms, a reading nook and an imaginarium, a room full of computers, smart boards and light tables.
“We’re trying to set a different tone,” said Ms Brucker. “We’re keeping plastic to a minimum.”
For its inaugural term, the school is admitting up to 30 children, aged four months up to four years. Its capacity is 130, but Ms Brucker said: “We have targets so that we stay small and focus on the quality.”
An open day is taking place from 5pm to 8pm on Wednesday to introduce the community to its staff of 10, which includes four teachers, four teachers’ assistants, an administrator and a nurse. “One of the big hallmarks of Finland is the fact that their teachers have high credentials. So we’ve undertaken as part of our philosophy that we will have degreed teachers working with these kids,” said Mrs McCauley.
“They understand the brain, they understand learning, they understand teaching and that’s where the magic starts to happen for the kids.
“It’s actually not a day care or a play care, it’s actually an educational programme,” Ms Brucker said.
© The National