At Treehouse Learning we have adopted a framework for the expression of our core values called BIDES, an acronym for Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Sustainability. This values framework encompasses our core values as an organization or at the staff (adult) level, as well as in the expression of our values through our actions and transmission of program values as educators in the lives of young children via our curriculum, daily rhythms, routines, and activities.
As an Early Childhood Education center, we exist to help the world thrive and everything in it! This means our scope of concern extends beyond the infant-kindergarten-age children in our care to consider each child’s entire lifespan and to support the holistic well-being of our staff, families, community, and the environment.
We seek to cultivate a nourishing, diverse, and vibrant “early childhood ecosystem” to nurture a thriving and interesting future on Planet Earth for all. Our curriculum revolves around a Whole Brain, Whole Person, Whole Planet approach to education across developmental domains (social-emotional, physical, and cognitive), via multiple intelligences and ways of knowing, and rooted in safe and secure attachments, or “right relationships” within ourselves, to one another, and with the land around us.
Overall, we support whole-person development and integration through intentional, responsive, and respectful experiences with the goal of shaping positive ways of being in the world.
While our business model is the care and education of children between the years of birth-Kindergarten, we believe that children thrive when the adults, systems, and ecosystems around them are also thriving. Children rely on thriving families, thriving communities, thriving teachers, and a thriving environment to support optimal development. We also recognize that the co-creation of a thriving world interconnects multiple interpersonal, social, cultural, and ecological systems.
How we engage with children, relate to one another, and care for our environments is a direct reflection of the world we seek to be part of and our belief systems. At Treehouse Learning, we use our BIDES framework to connect these values in a relational, transformative way, working not just for the here-and-now, but for the long-game! Every one of us is part of a Bigger Story united by our shared humanity, and we each have a role to play.
Our mission at Treehouse Learning is to support, empower, foster, and equip children with the skills, experiences, and mindsets necessary to truly make the world a better place- and not just for our own children, but for generations to come, for all living beings, and for our entire Planet Earth.
The World Needs Creative, Connected Innovation
Innovation refers to the capacity for making connections between previously unrelated concepts or ideas, which requires flexibility, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, creativity, adaptability, and empathy, and perspective-taking. The children of today are born into a world requiring them to solve challenges they didn’t create, repair brokenness they didn’t break, and clean up messes they didn’t make.
It is this quality of innovative integration that we believe the world needs most: a framework connecting the dots and weaving the fabric between social justice and environmental justice, between emotional intelligence and environmental intelligence, and between the diversity of people and ideas and diversity of ecosystems.
We seek to connect academic skills, intelligence, success, achievement, sustainability, equity and more, grounding our approach to the education of children today to the kind of world we hope for 25, 50, 100+ years from now. We use our BIDES framework to connect the dots and weave the bridge between the world as it is right now and the world of the future which we are all active participants in shaping.
Attachment and Relationships: Our Core Need is to Belong
Human beings are born wired for attachment and relationships. When we adopt a relational perspective, we also see that our ability to connect through empathy and perspective-taking with others is intertwined with our capacity to be in a relationship with the land and world around us, as well as our own self-concepts of positive mental health and the integration of our brains, bodies, hearts, and soul.
We know that humans cannot survive without food, water, shelter, or safety, but it is also true that we as a species would not survive without the attachment-based relationships that provide our physiological needs, especially during the early years of our development.
We believe this need persists throughout our life; as critical for our thriving as air or water, humans also share a core attachment need of belonging and significance. We are born united in our shared humanity, all equally deserving of our physiological needs being met and for a life of dignity, respect, meaning, and purpose.
Accepting the reality of the world, brutal as it may be, and cultivating hope for a brighter future
Unfortunately, the reality is that we do live in a world where there is true suffering, oppression, inequity, environmental devastation, exploitation, and destruction. We live in a world where not all people have their basic needs met and where people are dehumanized and stripped of dignity, safety, respect, equality, and universal human rights for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We live in a time and culture here in the United States shaped by systems, institutions, laws, beliefs, and patterns that have impacted the lived experiences of different groups or identities of people in dramatically different and often inequitable ways. We live in a time and culture often characterized by division, disconnection, and dehumanization. We live in a culture where dysfunctional patterns are often repeated out of familiarity, passed down in the form of generational and historical trauma.
And yet… as we accept the historical and present realities of the world we live in, we also actively and powerfully move towards a brighter, more connected future where the earth and everyone and every living thing in it thrives. How do we do this?
We begin with transformational, relational education systems that begin by naming what we are working towards and shifting patterns towards these objectives, not simply rejecting the things we say we’re against.
We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”
Because of our steadfast faith that goodness, justice, love, and life on Earth will ultimately prevail, we orient our program at Treehouse Learning towards the vision of the future that we hope to create, empowered by the belief that transformational change in the world is not only possible, but it occurs through the collective contributions of individuals who live and embody becoming the peace, love, and change each of us wish to see in the world.
With this vision and values in mind, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Sustainability is a framework we are co-creating as a roadmap and process for the expression of our values in action separately and simultaneously through our actions and intentions as Early Childhood Educators, as well as our actions and values as an organization (business) through the culture we work to nurture and create.
BIDES as a framework is not a checklist with a finish line and a certificate of competency upon completion. Rather, BIDES represents an ongoing process of reflection, learning, growing, and ways of being in the world grounded in curiosity, cultural humility, and a planetary perspective.
Moving Towards… What is BIDES?
To belong to something means we can fully be ourselves, that all the parts of ourselves have a purpose, and we are free of the pressure to hide or change who we are in order to fit in and be accepted. When we belong, we are welcomed into being fully seen, fully known, and fully loved.
We believe that building belonging is, by definition, an action of making the world a better place, and healing the disconnection, brokenness, and isolation that creates so much pain in the world. Our BIDES framework begins with belonging as a foundation to developing lifelong healthy social-emotional patterns and critical thinking skills of attunement, acceptance, and perspective shifting (or noticing, sitting with, and disrupting patterns). We also leave you with this definition of belonging from researchers and author Brené Brown:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
To create inclusion is to actively “see one another,” rather than see one as “an other.”
Inclusion requires that everyone is seen, heard, represented, considered, and has a voice. But true inclusion is more than simply representation or physical presence, although diversity and representation are related and necessary.
Inclusive environments involve all people having access and opportunity to participate. In an educational setting, this entails that all children see themselves, their families, and their experiences reflected, represented and valued.
In early childhood education, we often use the metaphor of books and stories as mirrors that reflect our own image back to us; windows that invite us to view a new perspective into a different world or experience, and doorways offering a transformative pathway into a new way of thinking or being.
A diverse environment refers to the representation of a wide variety of human experiences, people and ideas. Differences are represented and embraced across race, gender, age, class, physical ability, life experience, and other visible markers of identity.
It also includes the diversity within the whole person, as in the neurodiversity of the human brain, the diversity of emotional experiences, and the diversity of thoughts and ideas. Diversity is also reflected in the natural world through the diversity of ecosystems, plants, and animals.
Equity refers to fairness and justness in the treatment of all people. Even young children have a sense of fairness, which is not the same as equality or sameness.
Building equitable spaces and practices requires a deep understanding of systems and patterns that have resulted in inequitable treatments, outcomes, or distribution of resources.
The expression of equity as a value requires acceptance with discomfort and a willingness to move towards repair, reconciliation, and reciprocity. To move towards a more equitable and just world, we must begin with curiosity and awareness of the ways in which systems have impacted us individually and collectively in ways that may be harmful and inequitable or beneficial at the expense of injustice towards others.
Even when we are not responsible for past or present injustices or inequalities, we can all still actively participate in meaningful restoration and healing.
Our focus on equity occurs separately and simultaneously at the level of individual children and educational systems, staff, and the early childhood workforce, as well as community-wide, culturally, and globally.
Sustainability involves not only our relationship with the land, earth, and resources but also our own human experience to live in regenerative ways and engage in patterns and actions rooted in abundance, expansive possibilities, and flexible thinking.
Regenerative and sustainable systems are, by definition, diverse, inclusive, equitable, and rooted in belonging. Sustainability is rooted in right relationship with the land and the natural world around us.
Our understanding and expression of the concept of sustainability emerges from Indigenous voices, perspectives, and ways of thinking and involves critical thinking and awareness of our own interaction with systems and patterns of consumption emerging out of colonization.
In an early childhood educational context, our values of sustainability are expressed through our curriculum, program, and business, where children are actively engaged and empowered to participate in solutions, from gardening and reconnecting to food systems, to diverting plastic waste into Eco Bricks, to shifting mindsets towards a planetary perspective and a regenerative future.
We believe that all of the aspects of our BIDES framework are distinct yet interconnected and form the basis for our approach to the care and education of young children and the nourishment of all of the humans, living things, and systems we interact with.
We believe that no one on the planet has as much a capacity and potential to positively impact humanity, culture, and our planet as those who work with young children.
Change and transformation may feel daunting, but systemic change always begins with the collective actions of individuals united in a vision worth moving towards.
Why does this matter so much? In his book, A Can of Worms, author, activist, and Early Childhood Educator Nick Terrones shares more about the transformative capacities of education to shape the world we’d like to be part of. He writes,
Education, for me, is an institution for hope. Children never fail to offer their thinking in the most beautiful and honest of ways. If I carry a shred of hope for their future, then I must shoulder the responsibility to address their wonderments, insights, and understandings, as uncomfortable as they may make me.
…When I think of the role of education in society, I see it like a double-edged sword. On one sharp edge, education has been used to maintain the status quo that serves the dominant interests of our country. It has demanded a homogeny of thought that disregards cultural ways of knowing and being. It has instilled a false sense of certainty in knowledge that is anchored in a particular viewpoint and that serves particular interests. It has also been tethered to limited ideas, including the notion that education is to get children school-ready rather than life-ready, which would leave them poised with the relational and emotional skills they need to navigate the complexities and uncertainties in life.
On its other edge, the progressive approach to education that I follow is feared by those who seek to preserve the status quo. Educational institutions can spark social and cultural change. I believe that education shapes society, and a question that I hold for myself is, “What kind of society do I want to be shaping?”