Community Partnerships and Family Engagement in Quality Early Childhood Educational Experiences

A child sits on a bench dressed as a book character surrounded by an assortment of children's books| early childhood education center east boulder county lafayette louisville nature school holistic whole person
Strong communities build strong families and children through engagement and learning opportunities

Treehouse Learning exists in a vibrant and dynamic community with a rich history. Nestled at the base of the foothills with a stunning panoramic view of the mountains, Treehouse Learning is located within the ancestral homelands of Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute people, and our relationship with the geography and land shapes the character of our community. For example, Waneka Lake and the Greenlee Wildlife Preserve weave through the heart of Lafayette in an extensive ecosystem of nature, connecting to the flowing water of the Coal Creek Trail, and inviting abundant birds and wildlife.  Our unique corner of Boulder County straddles the zone bordering the distinct, yet often lumped together, towns of Lafayette and Louisville (and by the way, even the utility companies, post office, google maps and the neighborhood all disagree over where we’re actually located!). These two little L-towns on the periphery of the county seat are also shaped by a complex history as mining towns within a larger context of immigrants and racial tensions, prohibition, and coal, as well as strong community support for arts, culture, parks, music, and public spaces.  For this reason, we all benefit from getting to double dip from the wide array of free and family-friendly, cultural, musical, or events in both Louisville, Lafayette, as well as throughout Boulder County, including Erie and beyond. 

At Treehouse Learning, our intentional, responsive, and respectful curriculum guides us to engage in the public spaces within our community. For example, we partner with City of Lafayette naturalist Martin Ogle for nature-based presentations at Waneka Lake. We also facilitate a series of family picnics, nature experiences, and park playdates at Waneka Lake simply for the mutually-beneficial experiences for families to gather and play together. We also recently enjoyed our first forays into community events, financial sponsorships and booths, including a mobile playspace underneath an appropriately-shaped octagonal tent booth at Taste of Louisville, Being Better Neighbors Juneteenth and Pride festivals in Erie, Waneka Lake Fireworks, and Lafayette Peach Festival, where we simply showed up as a place for children and families to gather, play, and meet one another. 

Collective Trauma and Community Healing

We have all shared suffering from the disconnection to community during the height of the pandemic, not to mention the immediate grief and trauma in our community wrought by the Marshall Fires, and within the context of the politics, conflict, climate, strife, and dysfunctional systems (aka, a whole heap of collective trauma). Research on interpersonal neurobiology and trauma all supports the understanding that community-based belonging is one of the most impactful things that we can move towards in order to ignite individual and collective trauma healing. At Treehouse Learning, we are firm believers that because human beings are wired for attachment, connection, and relationship, the invitation into a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community built around belonging is beneficial to optimal child development and whole-person integration and well-being. We believe that community is the method and the cure.

A group of children engage in movement at a Public Library| early childhood education center east boulder county lafayette louisville nature school holistic whole person
Treehouse Learning Kindergarten and PreK students on a field trip to the Lafayette Public Library

Field Trips to the Lafayette Public Library

One of our most recent partnerships has been with the Lafayette Public Library. This fall on multiple occasions, our Forest and River (PreK and Kindergarten) followed a familiar neighborhood nature walk but instead arrived at the bus stop, where one incredibly exciting RTD bus ride down Baseline Road later, the children arrived at the Lafayette Public Library. The children are invited to browse, discover, and select a book to check out before a story-and-music time by the incredible children’s librarians. As magical as the experience inside the library, though, children are thrilled by the novelty of packed lunch from home, a major departure from the delicious and homemade meals served daily, and the park playground! 

We practice this same field trip deliberately and intentionally. Our objective is to build confidence in the adventure of the experience itself, as well as ignite the inspiration for children that their local public library is a place of belonging, wonder, magic, and a perpetual invitation into exploring the world. Children gain familiarity and practice by repeating the same walking/driving route, building their brains and internal compass skills. It is not too far away, but when you’re tired and have to walk uphill from the bus stop, it may feel far! Children build stamina, endurance, and resilience.

Symbolically, a local public library is also the home out of which limitless avenues of exploration and imagination unfold through the stories and pages contained within the library walls. Four and five-year-olds love adore taking public transportation, and associate the library with helpful people, inviting spaces, positive experiences, and fun memories. Children will carry memories of field trips to the library into adulthood, meaning that something seemingly ordinary and mundane, a class visit to the library, actually shapes the adults these children grow into.

As our focus begins in the first 5 years of life, our focus on supporting family engagement with the libraries is beneficial for children, their families, and the community. Our objective is to invite children into life-long learning, and the public library as an institution is existentially premised on the freedom to seek knowledge. We believe that libraries are like daily multivitamins or fertilizers for both long and short-term quality early childhood development.

An Ode to the Library

A trip to the library is also an extremely low-hanging fruit of family connection and relational capital. It costs nothing to step inside a library! There aren’t even late fees on books! And for the child-led experience to select books to bring home and share with a loved one? Priceless! As a mother of 4 in a family of avid library patrons, I personally recommend some guidelines in checking out books, such as you may only check out as many books as you can carry, or 100 book maximum at a time (library limits for the latter and we have ambitious readers who toggle around the former). Our children look forward to library trips as valuable relationship connection time, and when our family travels, we make it a point to visit local libraries whenever possible.

Community Events at the Library: An invitation into Learning via Play, Culture, Ideas, and Experiences

We appreciate the plethora of free children’s learning activities supported by our local libraries, who also share the understanding that playful invitations through joyful music, movement, and creative imaginations are the way nature designed all humans to learn.  (Read more about how play-based movement and music are avenues for optimal brain development and foundational to all learning). Children’s programming at libraries is designed to bring families together and build community- and we’re in that business too!

The All-Female Mariachi band, Mariachi Alma de Folklore performs at the Lafayette Public Library for Dia de los Muertos celebrations

On any given weekend, visible library support of early childhood learning opportunities is abundant and accessible for all. For instance, the Louisville Public Library hosts kindred folks like Jeff & Mia of Play-Ground Theater, who share their guitar, silliness, and creative imaginations with children in a movement-and-singing-based interactive experience they describe as “Monty Python meets Mr. Rogers.” On the same day, the Lafayette Public Library hosts a day’s worth of cultural celebrations and learning experiences around Dia De Los Muertos, including storytelling and an all-female Mariachi band. 

Our local libraries also offer free museum passes in addition to other community and cultural events, and did you know the library also has its own bookstore? We quite literally believe that our public libraries make our communities inclusive and families stronger. Partnerships between libraries, early childhood education centers, and families produce sweet fruit enjoyed by all. We all benefit when young children grow up engaged within their communities, especially their libraries!

Libraries: Brave Spaces for Ideas, Knowledge, and Democracy

An anti-bias framework in early childhood education has longtime recognized the power of books to act as mirrors, windows, and doorways into different perspectives, where we can see our own experiences reflected through stories, we are invited into witnessing another perspective, and we can access broader transformation of our thoughts and beliefs through an invitation into empathy and compassion for other humans with a story. A library (which houses more than just books), is itself an invitation into a community and belonging where all have access to full freedom to learn as much as can be imagined through library systems.

We believe that communities benefit when folks engage with public places like libraries. Our wish would be for all families to get involved with their local library. By simply showing up, we’re invited into building relationships and imagination. This gives us the opportunity to pay attention to the community and world around us, including building awareness around how local politics impact our families, communities, and our children for many years in the future. 

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