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Natacha's Articles

CEFA's Articles

Kids head to class at ‘junior’ kindergarten

A so-called junior kindergarten has opened in Langley near its border with Surrey.

The new, 12,000-square-foot school, housed in a $1-million complex, is built at 88th Avenue and 200th Street, alongside the freeway near the Colossus movie theatre.

The new digs are home to the third Core Education & Fine Arts (cefa) facility in the Lower Mainland. The other two are located in West Vancouver and in Burnaby.

The Langley facility, which includes a private chef and a cinema, will house eight classrooms for this community’s youngest students. Enrolled are more than 100 full and part-time students ranging in age from one to five years old, explained founder Natacha Beim.

A two-teacher system allows one teacher to observe students while the other actively teaches. The “observer” teacher is on hand to learn what interests and excites a student.

Beim said children are naturally curious and, like sponges, absorb so much of their knowledge and habits at a young age. The key, she said, is to stimulate them in different ways, to optimize the natural development of their brains.

Based on that premise, junior kindergartens have been a fixture for decades in countries such as France, Britain and Italy, and also in South America and Asia.

Beim spent the first half of her 15-year career travelling the world, teaching and in turn learning from young children. She saw first-hand the benefits of the junior kindergarten system.

“With the younger children, you give them so much of yourself,” she said. “At that age, your impact is huge. You can change the outlook of their views on learning. They pickup on your excitement about learning. It’s very magical.”

Engrossed by her own desire to understand how children learn, she has combined her hands-on experience in teaching at junior kindergartens and private schools, with years of research into early childhood educational methods to develop the foundation for cefa.

Actually, when Beim and her husband Alex first settled in North Vancouver, she thought about going to work in a day care or preschool. She even tossed around the idea of opening her own private elementary school. But after careful consideration, she opted to open a new educational centre aimed at the youngest of young students.

The outcome: She’s developed her own play or game-based curriculum and opened her first junior kindergarten in West Vancouver in 1998.

When the newest cefa school opened last Tuesday (Sept. 18), on staff were 20 teachers, 10 support workers and a chef, in addition to 112 young students.

It’s her projection that the new Langley school will have 200 kids enrolled within the year.

Beim said she’s considered opening a similar facility in Surrey, but will first guage the level of interest among parents in the area.

The public is invited to attend a special grand opening ceremony at the new CEFA school in Langley on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 3 to 6 p.m. Call 604-539-2338 for details.

| SOURCE: Langley Advance |

Experts in early childhood education offer insight into how kids learn

Living with preschoolers is like living with sentient sponges.

They soak up what you say, how you say it, what you do, why you do it and they just fire it right back at you.

Sometimes you are so proud you can’t catch your breath. Other times what they’ve learned makes you cringe.

But learn they will. In fact it is generally accepted that children from birth to aged six are wired for learning and if you can reach them, stimulate them and expose them to positive experiences in this time frame they will grow into productive, self-assured, creative adults.

On May 3 Whistler parents will have a chance to learn more about how to stimulate preschoolers from Natacha Beim, founder of Core Education & Fine Arts preschool program, and Julia Black, director of the Spring Creek and Whistler Children’s Centre.

Both will offer insights into early childhood education at the Spring Creek Children’s Centre from 10 a.m. to noon. Childcare is available.

“The amount of exposure they have to stimulation at this age is really what will enable them to learn later on,” said Beim, who has had a waiting list for her West Vancouver preschool since it opened in 1998.

“So the more they learn now and the more they are exposed to now, the more they increase the connections in their brains…. Later on when they do move to school they have a higher capacity for understanding, reasoning and really getting on with their education and their lives.

“Foregoing that opportunity and only offering what we think is an adequate daycare program is not enough.”

By the time children reach age three, their brains are twice as active as those of adults. Activity levels drop during adolescence.

Beim founded her cefa method out of personnel experience. A teacher herself she speaks four languages and believes in offering preschoolers a complete program in a central location.

Children are offered languages, computers, pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-mathematics. They also have access to a gym decorated as a circus, complete with hoops and other activities, and there is a cinema, art room and library.

An in-house chef prepares nutritious meals.

“It’s crazy for some children because they go from the preschool to music class to hockey class to ballet class to music,” said Beim.

“Before you know it the child is in five different places and driven all around with five different groups of people, never bonding with anyone. And it is unrealistic for parents too.”

The cefa program incorporates other learning methods including Montessori.

But what makes it unique is the training given to teachers by Beim and the focus on helping children learn to care for others and understand their own ability to contribute to the world.

A second cefa school is now set to open in Vancouver. Beim plans to return to university this fall to study child psychology.

Whistler’s own Julia Black also recognizes the importance of reaching children at a young age and stimulating them to learn in a creative, challenging yet fun environment.

Since she took over the Whistler and Spring Creek Children’s Centres she has introduced preschool programs and is currently working on training staff in the High/Scope preschool approach.

“It is definitely an approach that we want to explore,” said Black.

“Primarily because it is an evidence based or research based program. It is something that has brand recognition that parents seem to be seeking.

“It is not straying too far from what we presently believe in as far as our desire to promote active learning through play environment.”

High/Scope promotes childhood learning through pursuit of personal interests and goals. Children are encouraged to make choices about materials and activities throughout the day.

As they pursue their choices and plans, children explore, ask and answer questions, solve problems and interact with classmates and adults.

In this kind of environment children naturally engage in key experiences – activities that foster developmentally important skills and abilities.

High/Scope has identified 58 key experiences for the preschool years and a wide range of strategies for promoting them.

There are 10 categories of key experiences. They are creative representation, language and literacy, initiative and social relations, movement, music, classification, seriation (sorting things by common characteristics), number, space and time

| SOURCE: The Pique (Whistler) |

Sprightly Tykes

Portia Reistma (left) and Ava Brooks, both two, hot ready to perform for parents at their cefa (Core Education & Fine Arts) graduation ceremony June 28th. The pre-kindergarten aged children showed off their theatrical and tap dancing skills before sitting down to afternoon tea.

| SOURCE: North Shore News |


First Class

Rooney Gilbert, took his teacher’s hand as the first graduating class of the West Vancouver based Core Education & Fine Arts Preparatory School celebrated with a ceremony June 28 at Park Royal South.

| SOURCE: North Shore News |

Pre-School of the Future

Call it fate, good luck, synchronicity…shortly after writing my last article about education, I walked through the door of a fantastic, cutting edge institution

known as cefa (Core Education & Fine Arts). Now before you go running down to sign up, I have to tell you that it’s for preschool children only. It’s a child’s paradise. The vision held by cefa’s founder Natacha Lochkrin is an honorable one. She has the credentials: a published poet at the age of 16, she speaks four languages, has served as a schoolteacher and even put in a few years at pre-med studies. Natacha holds a vision for an environment in which children have the opportunity to expand their minds and manifest their dreams.

Pre-school meets prep school at cefa. They provide pre-school children with a vast spectrum of stimuli that encourages them to learn and grow while still having fun. And Natacha says her system can be customized to meet everyone’s requirements. They offer much: math, yoga, reading, art, music, cinema and more, for your children. Even an onsite chef prepares meals for the pampered preschoolers. Lest we forget the weekly field trips to museums, parks and local ski hills. All this aside, what impressed me the most are the cherished values at cefa like honesty, compassion, generosity. When I first walked into Natacha’s office she was talking on the phone with a friend to whom she was lending her car. What really impressed me though was Natacha’s response when I asked what success means to her.

“The most important thing, is to be a good person. It sounds silly as a goal, but I have always wanted to really go out of my way to make someone else’s life a better life. Just to help. This is a way”

When you talk to Natacha you quickly realize that everything she does comes from the heart. Cefa is a physical manifestation of that kindness and caring.

| SOURCE: The West Vancouver Phoenix |

Pre-School turned prep school

In brightly colored classrooms, books and worksheets share space with puzzles, games and toys. Art supplies fill a small atelier, or art room. Stuffed alligators, circus ponies, and a giant snake inhabit a gym painted to resemble a circus. This set of rooms, occupied by the Core Educatin & Fine Arts (cefa) Private Educational Institute for Young Children, was clearly designed to appeal to children. More prep school than preschool, however, it also boasts a far-ranging curriculum.

Principal Natacha Lochkrin has designed her program to prepare children for entry into the established BC school system. She also tries to provide opportunity, encouragement, training, motivation and self-confidence—all of which an Exeter University study says are second only to practice in creating children who excel.

The cefa program eases the transition from home to school, where children are surrounded by peers and an adult authority figure. In this respect, cefa is like most preschools. So, why open a school of her own? Lochkrin finds many children unprepared for entering kindergarten.

“They think that learning is doing whatever you want, whenever you want to…”, she says. “But school is very different. They’re no longer in control of their education”

With this in mind, Lochkrin set up her center to model the school environment, with classrooms, a library, a gymnasium, and “classes” of children that change with each level. She stresses that the cefa program prepares children not only to enter school, but to enter it successfully.

The curriculum covers core subjects such as pre-reading, pre-math, computers, and natural science. In addition, the children receive instruction in subjects that most schools barely manage to introduce: drama, music, art, dance, language, immersion, fitness, yoga—all taught, by professionals in each specialization.

Each child has a schedule, drawn to reflect his or her unique abilities and made up by cefa in consultation with the parents.  The schedule is broken up by play times, family times, project time, relaxation, naps and movies as well as breakfast and lunch. Every week, the children can also look forward to field trips. Since the facility opened in December, they’ve biked in the nearby trails, and visited the Vancouver Aquarium and a pet shop in the mall.

The teachers use a combination of early childhood education approaches —such as child centered Montessori and project-based Reggio Emilia methods—as well as Lochkrin’s own techniques, developed during her four years of teaching kindergarten in France. As part of ongoing research, the teachers document their methods as well.

While its too early to truly gauge the success of the fledgling program, Lochkrin cites positive reaction from her past: former students email her about their successes, and the teachers who inherited her kindergarten classes marvel over the confidence the children display. Another measure of success is the onslaught of parents who rushed to register when the school first advertised—some signed up students still in the womb.

Parents looking for an alternative to shuttling their kids from one lesson to another will appreciate the convenience of a program that brings all these interests together under one roof.

She believes that the school’s focus on the child will ease the minds of parents who feel guilty about leaving their children with strangers in a potentially miserable situation. The schedules, tailored to fit each child and used as guidelines by staff, should also reassure parents who’ve already invested their time teaching their children.

The three years at cefa can be expensive, costing up to $1500 per month (the most popular programs are in the $350-650 range). However, Lochkrin points out that preschool costs are tax-deductible and invites parents to try the school out for a week. She’s also planning an interactive web page and a newsletter, with parent commentary, research notes, and tips on the cefa method of teaching.

| SOURCE: Westcoast Families |

Pre-school opens

Principal Natacha Lochkrin welcomed West Vancover mayor Pat Boname to Core Education & Fine Art’s grand opening at Park Royal South on November 8. The education facility will teach preschool children.

| SOURCE: North Shore News |

Yoga to pre-math, they’re prepared

You could call it a prep school for preschoolers.

A new West Vancouver school, Core Education & Fine Arts, aims to prepare preschool kids for school – giving them the jump on others in Grade 1.

The school, which opens Nov. 1, will teach 48 students many of the basic skills needed for their learning lives ahead.

“It’s much more like an elementary school than a pre-school” says principal Natacha Lochkrin.

Daycares and preschools take kids for a few hours of supervised care, with little structure to the day.

At the cefa prep school, each classroom has been designed with academics in mind.

Children three to five years old can play with toys, costumes, puzzles and building blocks, all teacher-approved materials.

They also learned pre-math, pre-writing and reading with qualified teachers. Even French or Spanish immersion is offered, along with science and lots of field trips.

A full-time chef can whip up breakfast or lunch, all nutritionally approved.

In the afternoons, there’s yoga, movies, workouts, music and dance. And a glorious nap under twinkling stars on the ceiling.

It doesn’t come cheap. A full week per child costs $1,500 a month. One day a week comes to $350 a month.

West Van mother of two Frances Zago was impressed on her tour of the school, located in the Park Royal mall.

“Daycare doesn’t have any structure,” said Zago. “And a nanny at home isolates the child.

Amy Chalmers of North Vancouver plans to return to school. But preschools offer only part-day care for her two sons.

“You have the option here of having them in all day,” she said.

A recent University of B.C. study found that low-income kids who attend a good daycare do 40-percent better in standardized tests for students entering school.

| SOURCE: The Province |

Park Royal lineup is three years long

There’s a new preschool in town and it’s opening at Park Royal Shopping Center in September.

But if you like the concept for your child, even if you don’t have a child yet, you’d better get in line.

“We have a three year waiting list,” says Core Education and Fine Arts (CE&FA) founder Natacha Lochkrin. “Pregnant parents want to get their kids registered for when they’re three.”

The school is based on the philosophy that children can be motivated to learn at an early age and enjoy themselves at the same time. Once the positive link to learning is established, they’ll enjoy it for life.

“I’ve found with the program, the children really want to learn, they’re really curious. And they do well to go on to do well in higher grades.”

The school is to have three classes of 16 children in September, aged from three to five years old. Each class will have to teachers. “They learn through play—letters, colors, numbers—it’s all done through games,” says Lochkrin.

The children also learn creative self-expression through self-directed play, and learn to be comfortable with their teachers and classmates.

The curriculum includes pre-mathematics, pre-reading, pre-writing, fine motor skills, physics, geography, music, art, physical education, character growth, language immersion, gardening (biology) and more.

Lochkrin says as well as her own methods, she has borrowed some ideas from other early childhood education methods such as Montessori.

As well as the classroom CE&FA has a library, playrooms (including a circus room), a family room, movie room and ad outdoor play ground.

Even the children’s nutritional needs are met by an in-house chef, who will prepare both a “gourmet menu” and a “vegetarian gourmet” menu.

Despite the unavoidable wait for expectant parents, the school is still accepting registrations for children to enter the program in September.

Lochkrin also has plans to expand –both at Park Royal, and to open a second facility in Vancouver.

| SOURCE: North Shore News |

Preschool offers computers, cinema, chef

Natacha Lochrin believes it’s never too early to prepare children for school. A former kindergarten teacher, she realized young students could benefit from getting to know the system and developing good learning habits before they start Grade 1.

During the past four years Lochkrin has developed an innovative program that eases a child’s transition from home to elementary school. She claims her program, Core Education & Fine Arts, is one of only a few breakthroughs in education since the beginning of this century.

“Cefa encourages children to learn to think, as opposed to learning how to remember information,” she said. “It’s a method that helps children integrate perfectly into the existing school system.”

The program, which runs from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., is a combination of daycare and preschool. French immersion, computers, pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-mathematics are presented in a way that encourages children’s participation.

The school also includes a circus- a gym painted to resemble a circus with horses, hula hoops and other toys-cinema, art room and library. An in-house chef prepares breakfast and lunch for teachers and students. “The school takes care of every single aspect of the child,” said Lochkrin.

Teachers and parents work together to develop a program that suits each child’s interests and needs and fits the family’s schedule.

Activities are structured, Lochkrin said, but they are presented as games so that children associate learning with fun. Children are encouraged to work both in groups and on their own, on projects that interest them.

“Every child is different and we emphasize that at the school,” she said. In elementary school, students will be evaluated according to one standard, but cefa’s methods encourage children to evaluate their own success.

“We teach them to value their work and their effort rather than the mark they are given,” she said.

Lochkrin’s goal with cefa is to help children develop a passion for learning and the motivation to do their best. She has seen positive results in her kindergarten classes and hopes for the same when the first cefa school opens this September at Park Royal shopping center. Lochkrin plans to open a school in Vancouver next year.

| SOURCE: The Vancouver Courier |