When the Peregrine House School opens its doors to Langley children on Sept. 7, it will be the culmination of an eight year dream in the making for founder Nadin Elkhalil.
“I have to pinch myself that this is really happening,” said Elkhalil, a mother of two.
Peregrine House School will be one of only two schools in B.C. to become a member of the Montessori Quality Assurance program in Canada. And the classroom space these children will be in every day is the first of its kind in Canada, and opening right here in Langley.
In 2011, Elkhalil saw the need for an authentic Montessori program in the Fraser Valley, and “armed with a passion for learning and a deep respect for the child, I opened up my home to what was then known as Elms Academy. In two short years my program outgrew my home environment.” As a result, the dream for the Peregrine House School was born.
Designed by Perkins+Will, Peregrine House’s Children’s Pavilion is a 1,280-square-foot modular learning environment for preschool-aged children.
The Children’s Pavilion is a customized version of Perkins+Will’s Sprout Space, a revolutionary modular classroom facility that uses cutting edge green building strategies to enhance learning.
The building is designed to keep the indoor environment free from harmful chemicals. Building materials — including coatings, adhesives, and sealants—were carefully selected to exclude volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The flooring, for example, is made primarily of flax, wood flour and jute. The school is extremely energy efficient and uses only soft LED lighting and a heating system that recaptures waste heat. Eventually it will use solar panels with a battery designed by Tesla, with the aim of making it energy self sufficient.
Even all the materials used in the classroom are sourced to the highest environmental standards right down to the desks and climbing structure.
The roof collects water which will be used in the school’s vegetable garden. The environmental strategies will be part of the children’s curriculum, she said.
“I am so excited to be able to offer our students a healthy, sustainable learning environment that reflects the core values and principles of the Montessori international pedagogy,” said Elkhalil.
With lots of natural light and fresh air, she expects children to see an improvement in asthma and eczema.
The Peregrine school will offer full daycare hours, four-hour preschool and an option of afternoon sessions. The school is located on four acres where the former James Anderson school site is at 20381 66 Ave.
Elkhalil was trained through the Association Montessori International (AMI) which is the authentic Montessori training program that strictly follows Dr. Maria Montessori’s practices and principals.
Her unique early learning environment has caught the attention of the provincial government who helped fund the school and the upcoming infant childcare pavilion.
Her preschool is “set up like a home, where children will be getting a purposeful day in a healthy environment,” she said. “Children are like sponges. A three-year-old holds no judgements. They are kind and intelligent.”
Children are capable of so much more than we often expect of them, she said.
Children attending Peregrine will use cutlery, set their own lunch table, wash dishes and learn hand writing and math concepts at the age of three.
While that seems daunting to some parents, Elkhalil insists children are wanting to learn and like having tasks to complete.
Students learn the concepts of counting, weight, depth and measurements through specific teachings.
“I’ve had some four-year-olds doing Grade 3 math. I teach about Picasso and Van Gogh but I make it interesting to them,” she said. “Why not show them and teach them about our very best people so they can see they can be their very best. Why limit them to cartoon characters at that age?”
With a background in theatre, she said the children will be doing dance and plays. Preschool is four hours, with one hour dedicated to lunch.
“The children set the table. We teach healthy eating so we don’t want to rush them,” she said. “They are given cutlery to use.” Then they have to wash their dishes, which she says they love doing.
“They love to do chores. It gives them a sense of accomplishment,” she said.
“Children like to build and create. They like beautiful things, repetition and order,” she said. For those who wonder if the children are having fun, Elkhalil assures that there is much laughter and play throughout the day.
“Children going to my school will gain life skills that they will carry forward,” she said.
In the coming year, Elkhalil plans to add another Children’s Pavilion module next door offering infant and toddler childcare.
“The School District is supportive of Ms. Elkhalil’s vision for Peregrine House School . . . Her passion for early childhood education is refreshing and that passion for doing things differently has been instrumental in bringing the Sprout Space building concept to Langley,,” said David Green, Langley School District Secretary Treasurer.
“The Children’s Pavilion project is a great example of innovation and collaboration,” said B.C. Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux. “What Peregrine House School has accomplished in just a short time is inspiring and we look forward to seeing their vision expand to support even more Langley families.”
Peregrine House now can serve 20 students, aged 2.5 to 5 years and 20 students in a before and after care program called “Peregrine Clubhouse.”
The total cost to create the school is around $307,000 with $92,000 from the Ministry of Children and Family Development Child Care Major Capital Phase 2 funding. She is also receiving $225,000 from the MCFD to create 20 infant and toddler spaces.
“I think there is this belief that Montessori is not affordable, but Peregrine’s programs have been designed with flexibility and affordable tuition. That is really important to me, because I want to share this learning environment with every child,” she said.
Elkhalil has trained teachers, called ‘guides’, ready to go and she still has spaces available in the school.
To learn more go to www.peregrinehouseschool.com.