Our Specials Team
Supporting Emotional Growth at LEDS
Along with our classroom provocations and inquiry-based learning, we like to lean into our teachers' strengths as well. We offer Specials throughout the week for steeped time with things that are important to our school's philosophy:
Art, Storytelling, Music & Movement, and Outdoor-focused exploration.
Open Studio is a fun time for art exploration with Ms. Kelsey, full of creative play, process art, and intuitive learning. During Open Studio, students dig into their creativity, work on social relationships with their classmates, and challenge themselves through new materials. Art can be an outlet for big feelings, allowing those overwhelming emotions to be tangible and easily transformed before a child's eyes, while simultaneously acting as a tool for learning self regulation. Creating art has been proven to increase self confidence, autonomy, increase attunement with one’s emotions and needs, and encourage self exploration and expression. Art is so naturally supportive for children. Kids live in their own creative worlds and are constantly learning, creating, and adapting. In Open Studio, we lean into that intuitive creative space and watch as kids learn and grow more deeply into themselves.
Other Art Therapy Offerings:
Kelsey aids in regulation support if a child is going through a difficult transition at home, and parents are encouraged to reach out to her if they’d like regular check-ins during the school days to support their child through challenges. Additionally, Kelsey facilitates one-time family therapy session for parents to observe how to engage with art with your child, followed by psycho-education and individualized support. If you’re interested in any of these additional offerings, please reach out to Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelsey Fatsi is our resident Art Therapist, and has worked over the last few years to integrate mental and emotional health support into the foundation of Little Explorers. She holds a Masters in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Art Therapy from Naropa University. Kelsey has worked as an Art Therapist at Girls Athletic Leadership School in Denver, Colorado, facilitated groups for pregnancy and postpartum, used art as a healing resource with women and children survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia, and spent many years teaching process-based art at Tinker Art Studio in Boulder, CO. Integrating the numerous benefits of art therapy into LEDS is an exciting journey, and aligns with the school’s foundation of curiosity, creativity, and child-led growth.
In addition to her work at LEDS, Kelsey spends her time supporting families during the beautiful but intense transition into parenthood as a doula (moonfiredoulas.com); as a mother to 3 spunky girls (two LEDS graduates and one Trailblazer); as a mixed media artist exploring what it is to be a woman on this Earth; as an ever-learning homeschool parent; and by painting as many things as she can in the joyful chaos of her purple house :)
Music & Movement
Music & Movement is a time that sounds self-explanatory, but I assure you each week will feel like a new and exciting time for these children! During this special class, kids will join in various forms of movement activities, music exploration and spend time getting to know how to regulate their bodies through physical activity, breathing and song. We will participate in activities like yoga, obstacle courses, parachute games and other gross motor tasks. We will also use music instruments, dances and rhythm games to learn more about music and how it makes us feel.
Not only is this time beneficial for gross motor development and generally just getting the wiggles out, but also assists with social and emotional development. We will learn to work together by playing games and simple group activities like shaking the parachute. We will also learn how to calm our bodies through yoga and breathing techniques, to help us get through the hard moments in the classroom and at home. Movement in this age group has been shown to improve memory, language and emotional regulation. It also helps to provide better self-awareness and awareness of others. But more important than anything, we’re going to have fun!
Ellen Graham grew up involved in sports & fitness from a very young age. She followed this passion to a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and a master’s degree in Sport Management. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine and a Youth Fitness Specialist through the American Council on Exercise. Outside of her time at Little Explorers, you can find her teaching “Mini-Movers” for kids ages 3-5 at The Basement here in Crozet. She is also the proud mom of a Little Explorer (Violet- Trailblazer) and littler explorer (Ruby- pre-wanderer).
Story Studio is a focused time to work on early literacy skills like alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, pre-writing, and narrative understanding. These skills are already interwoven throughout the children’s days in their classrooms, but Story Studio is a time to bring special energy and excitement to learning language and reading new books.
In addition to singing songs and engaging in fun alphabet activities, we also emphasize the importance of children’s storytelling through their small world and pretend play. We offer beautiful, engaging small world materials and honor each child’s understanding of the world as they tell it to help them feel valued. Children develop confidence, creativity, a narrative sense, and a greater understanding of the world through storytelling. We also practice listening to each other’s stories and empathizing with each other during this time.
Jen Buckett has always been passionate about literacy and storytelling. She majored in English with a minor in Environmental Studies at William and Mary, and she earned a Masters of Teaching in English Education from UVA. Jen spent a year teaching ESL in Chengdu, China and has taught creative writing at the UVA Young Writer’s Workshop and WriterHouse. After 10 years of teaching middle school English, Jen fell in love with the pedagogy and psychology of early childhood when her own children were born and is so excited to be heading up Story Studio! Jen is also a Trailblazers Lead Teacher at LEDS South, and our Literary Specialist.
There are a few books that have truly inspired how I teach and how I parent. My favorite is How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson. It’s so important to get kids outside and give them the space to create their own experiences and adventures. There are many ways to share a love of nature with children, but one of the biggest lessons for me in this book is how to be a nature mentor. Specifically, how to get out of the way of discovery and support their curiosity. It’s so hard to not step in with the answer when they ask a question, but it’s shocking how quickly the answer kills curiosity. I like the way the book puts it best, “Children are often looking for our engagement more than our answers, hoping that the focus of their attention will become ours too.” I picture a nature mentor as walking at the back of a group, waiting for something that sparks interest and then discovering alongside the children. This is true not only out in nature, but also in their day-to-day play. It’s so easy to take charge when they’re learning a new skill, but so much is learned in the frustration of trial and error. Finding the balance of providing the right amount of support is wonderfully rewarding. I hope you get the chance to check out the book and learn alongside your child outside.
Jennifer Iyengar spent eight years as a nanny before earning an undergraduate and master's degree in Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management. She was in charge of the programming at Little Planets Playroom for two years and currently leads Hike it Baby Charlottesville. In her free time she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband, two kids, and pets. Jennifer has been with Little Explorers since December 2019. She was the lead teacher for our 2-3 year olds for two years after leading our Let's Explore Together class for children ages 0-24 months and substituting.