Journey School of Peoria offers families a welcoming community dedicated to children and the joyous adventure of learning
By Michelle Talsma Everson
At Journey School of Peoria, the motto is: “Teaching children to learn with an uncompromising spirit of joy and adventure!” A nature-based daycare and preschool that offers a summer program for children ages 6 to 12, the spirit of community, adventure, and learning through play and exploration, is built into everything they do.
Journey School of Peoria opened in early February, right before the COVID-19 pandemic closed their doors for several weeks, shares Bridget Sgro, the owner and head of school. The school is now re-opened and is welcoming new students and families to be a part of their unique community.
“We’re following all of the CDC guidelines; temperatures are checked at the door, stringent cleaning standards, washing hands and social distancing,” Sgro confirms.
A family owned and operated organization, Sgro says that the school uses the Reggio Emilia model of education and that the student to teacher ratio is lower than Arizona state standards.
“It’s a child-led curriculum; they learn through the outdoors and through play,” she says. “Of course, in the summer, we make sure outdoor time involves water play and plenty of shade—and we only go outside for 30 minute spurts.”
According to Scholastic.com, “the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education views young children as individuals who are curious about their world and have the powerful potential to learn from all that surrounds them. Educational, psychological, and sociological influences are important factors to consider in understanding children and working to stimulate learning in appropriate ways. Reggio teachers employ strategies such as exposing children to a wide variety of educational opportunities that encourage self-expression, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving.”
“We recognize that children have a natural curiosity and a predisposition to enjoy the unexpected,” Sgro says. “Children engage in active exploration and investigation to make sense of their world. We strive to fuel children’s investigative impulses and encourage discovery, promote questioning and challenging of ideas, and formulate connections of experience.”
Sgro and her staff at Journey School of Peoria also believe in and offer students: a warm, welcoming environment; personalized attention; the chance to learn through exploration; and the belief and confidence that children can create their own meaningful experiences.
One of the unique factors about Journey School is that children can explore nature and responsibility through the animals that live on the property. The school is home to some one-of-a-kind “pupils,” including goats, bunnies, chickens, hamsters, a service dog, and more. The children—as age appropriate, of course—have the opportunity to feed and play with the animals. There are also several trees and an overall, home-like, welcoming environment.
“We’re all about teaching life skills,” Sgro says. “Even our children as young as 1-year-old learn how to clean up after themselves after mealtime.”
Speaking of meals, at the Journey School of Peoria, there is a garden and a full-time chef who cooks healthy, balanced meals and snacks for the children. Meals are served with an emphasis on family and community; as well as healthy eating and learning healthy choices.
Students of all ages also participate in special classes, including yoga, art, music, drama, gardening, and more. This summer, for older children who are there for summer camp, there will be a world exploration theme for them to participate in and enjoy. Students will follow a drop of water around the world and learn what life is like in different countries, shares Sgro.
“Journey School is the most amazing school we’ve ever been to,” shares one Journey School parent with two enrolled children. “Amazing, dedicated teachers, and don’t forget the amazing owner who truly cares so much. The food cooked by the chef there is so healthy and fresh. My kids love the school animals. We were skeptical when we read all the amazing things about it, but everything you read is true. [We] could not have ever imagined a better place for my two little ones.”
One of the biggest priorities for Journey School is to foster a strong sense of community, not only among their students but the families of the children as well.
“At Journey School, we believe in building and maintaining a strong sense of community,” Sgro shares. “We encourage the active participation of families and staff in all facets of life at Journey. We truly live together in community as a school family.”
This family style community focus includes regular group activities and events (as appropriate and safe during the pandemic). In addition, the school makes sure to connect with parents through documenting children’s activities and documenting their learning through a portfolio system.
Having only been a part of the local community for a short time, Sgro says that the reception has been amazing. Even during the school’s closure due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Sgro and her team still kept in touch with students and their families.
When it comes to pricing, Journey School of Peoria offers many options for local families—including full-week enrollment, part-week enrollment, summer camp for elementary school children, and before- and after-school care once school is back in session. Prices are competitive to other, more “big box” style daycares and preschools, and Sgro says the school offers the convenience of charging by the day, not the hour.
This summer, the daycare and preschool will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the summer camp for elementary students will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Prices are available on the school’s website, and the school is DES approved for subsidies and scholarships. It is also working on its Quality First rating.
“We allow the children plenty of time to explore and learn how to be independent,” Sgro says. “They have a natural curiosity and desire to learn; we simply nurture that gift.”