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November 19, 2016 - Richardson Living

Growing A Love For Learning

Flamingo Island Begins Botanical Garden Expansion

The garden at Flamingo Island Preschool began with a few small planter boxes. Now, they’re developing the gardening project for their students. The City of Richardson recently approved Flamingo Island’s plans to build an outdoor learning center and botanical garden, as well as a small community garden, on 3,000 square feet outside their preschool.

“It started as a project on the side of our playground,” said George Krajnovic, managing member at Flamingo Island. “The kids really loved it, and the parents really loved it, so we decided to expand on it.”

The students first began growing kale, cabbage, watermelons and corn in small planter boxes, and they experimented with what grew well and what didn’t. The 4- and 5-year-old classes are in charge of the planter boxes, but younger students are allowed to help. Each of the older student gets their own section of the planter marked with their name where they grow their own produce.

After students nurture their produce and watch it grow, they take it home and replant it, give it to their parents, or prepare it and eat it. They have grown aloe vera, tomatoes, rosemary, and various other herbs, fruits and vegetables. In the past, they made preserves from the strawberries and figs they grew and sold it to their parents.

All of the produce from the preschool’s new 100 percent organic, non-GMO garden will continue to be planted and grown by their students. According to George, nurturing the organic garden helps teach the preschoolers about the benefits of dedication and effort.

“Wholesome foods are harder to grow, and they take more effort, but they give you more joy, because it’s good for you,” he said. “We’re trying to promote that if you take care of something, if you take your time to grow it, it will be better for the environment, better for you, better for everyone. It’s teaching our students the process of growing something.”

Learning the process of growing something has greater benefits for the students then just learning to garden. Although they’re only growing plants right now, George says that this skill can be related to a lot of different things in life.

“It’s the same as growing a company or growing your career,” he said. “If you take care of it, if you dedicate yourself to it, you’re going to grow it. Growing plants teaches dedication, it gives you a reward. It might look as simple as planting, but it’s actually building the student’s whole inner character.”

Flamingo Island also has plans to build two 10-by-16-feet cedar elm pergolas that will be an outdoor learning center alongside the new garden. The two structures will act as outdoor classrooms where students can participate in hands-on learning and get a little dirty while gardening or doing other outdoor learning activities. Here, students will do yoga, cook, have art classes, make pottery and more. George says he is especially excited for what his students will learn in pottery classes.

“Pottery classes are beyond learning how to read, beyond learning how to write,” George said. “Those are normal expectations for a 5-year-old. This is learning how to make something out of a piece of clay. It’s molding it, making it, taking your time, enjoying the process, being positive about it and being excited about learning. We’re instilling a love of learning, not just learning.

The outside learning center and botanical garden will be fenced off for the students’ safety, but Flamingo Island also has plans to create a small unfenced garden for the community. The preschool is next to a residential neighborhood, so surrounding residents will be able to plant their own produce, garden, and simply enjoy the greenery.

“This garden is adding to the whole community value,” George said. “We’re doing it because it’s kind of cool, and we feel like it’s going to promote well-being in our community and in our students.”

Flamingo Island Preschool hasn’t begun construction on their botanical garden and outdoor learning center just yet, but George says they hope to begin construction by the end of December. Until then, students will continue growing their character and love for learning as they garden in the planter boxes by the playground.

Source: RichardsonLiving.com

 

June 30, 2015 - Richardson Living

A Lifelong Love of Learning

Flamingo Island Preschool is stimulating young minds by mixing textbook teaching with creative curriculum.

Tucked away at the northeast corner of Arapaho and Plano Road sits Flamingo Island Preschool, where up to 93 children are learning writing, math and science—but not without creative, imaginative play. Balancing textbook teaching with creative curriculum appropriately reflects this preschool’s name, but that’s not all…

Flamingos are known for their balance and poise, as well as their distinctive pink color, but when two lovebirds come together, their necks form the shape of a heart.

“It was from our hearts and love for children and helping others that we founded and named Flamingo Island Preschool,” revealed “Mrs. Kay” Krajnovic, director of the school with her husband George, a CPA.

Kay is also a full-time registered nurse who worked at Baylor Hospital and Medical City before transitioning into early childhood education. A mom of three, she exudes passion for children and for this new chapter in her life.

Flamingo Island Preschool opened in 2013 and teaches children 12 months to 5 years programs that follow the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Texas Education Agency. By incorporating McGraw-Hill teaching strategies and creative curriculum, children thrive in an innovative learning environment and are set to become confident, well-rounded students—and perhaps future Richardson entrepreneurs.

“Creative curriculum focuses on the whole child, especially social-emotional development,” Kay said. “Mrs. Jennifer, the pre-K 3 teacher, uses creative curriculum in her classroom, and she and I have noticed an amazing transformation.

At first, a few students were shy and introverted but now they have such positive self-esteems. You can have the most academically advanced child but what good does it do if he or she is so introverted that they don’t have the tools to form healthy relationships?”

A different splash of color beautifies each classroom. Art, no doubt, is celebrated. Last March, the Flamingo hosted a Little da Vinci Day, and the entire preschool was transformed into a mesmerizing art gallery. “The parents—and children—were so proud,” said Susan Hendrix, manager of the preschool.

“As far as safety and security, we have the best technology available,” George said. “We have intercom, audio/video recorders and security cameras in every classroom.” The preschool also has a keypad-controlled door and a 7-foot tall fence around the playground.

And with a registered nurse on staff, a child with a simple cold or someone who needs daily medication, such as insulin for diabetes, will be properly taken care of.

“We have a passion for the community and for helping others,” George said. “Kay, being a nurse, has had a passion for helping others since she was a little girl.”

“That’s what I search for when hiring teachers,” Kay said, “that same love and passion for children. They have to have a loving and nurturing spirit.”

“All of our teachers are incredible,” Susan said. “We’re picky on who we hire because it is such a privilege to care for other parents’ children.”

The Flamingo focuses on nurturing children’s curiosity, helping them feel secure, and creating an environment full of warm, loving and meaningful interactions. Students are given the tools and inspiration they need to develop a lifelong love of learning. “Early childhood education is so important because it’s going to shape who these children are forever,” said Kay. “When our kids graduate, they are 100 percent ready … not just to go off to elementary school but ready for life.”  

Flamingo Island Preschool is located at 1402 Blake Drive in Richardson. Call 972.238.7833 or visit flamingoschool.com.

Source: http://richardsonliving.com/features-scene/lifelong-love-learning