Ridley Orchard Through the Years

As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, Nicole reflects on her mother’s legacy and how it has helped raise a generation of adventurers, creators, scientists, artists, and inventors.

Twenty-five years ago, my mother, Sophie, opened a 1000sqft school. Her goal was to share her passion for early childhood education and making sure children were validated, seen, and heard. She facilitated individualized programs that supported each and every child’s growth and development.

The one thing she hadn’t planned for was the knowledge she would gain from parents, by merely listening.

  • When will my child sleep through the night?
  • Why won’t my three year old listen to me?
  • What’s the best way to handle a toddler who bites?
  • How do I get my children to clean up?
  • At what age should my child watch superhero movies?
  • Do I limit screen time?
  • How do I potty train?
  • How do I stop the power struggle and tantrums?
  • Is it ok to co-sleep and bed-share?
  • What do I feed my picky eater?
  • How do I set limits and boundaries?
  • How do I empower and develop my child’s self esteem and self reliance?

The answers to these questions led her to work with families one on one and later in groups to alleviate the common concerns we all have as parents.

I was a child myself when Ridley Orchard started, going classroom to classroom helping teachers set up activities or reading stories to students. I sat in on brainstorming sessions between Sophie and the teachers as they worked out a plan to support each child in every classroom. I grew up around the families who came to my mom for answers. I saw them enter a meeting stressed and lost only to leave hopeful and empowered. Her tenacity and care are something I have always admired about her, and I hope to embody those same qualities one day.

I joined the Ridley Orchard team as a program facilitator while working towards my undergraduate degree and then as an educator. Working in the Kindergarten Classroom is one of my fondest memories. I brought my love of science into the classroom and watched as the student’s curiosity exploded to create intriguing hypotheses and amazing experiments.
Nicole with her graduating Kindergarten class

In 2016 I opened Children’s Forest, a before and after school program needed in the community for school age children. I took the lessons I learned from my mom and worked with families to create a special space. At that time, school age programs that enabled children to continue exploring and learning at their own pace, a place to decompress after the stresses of the school day and be themselves did not exist. After starting mid-year with 5 students we quickly grew to over 100 children within three years. We developed fun and exciting programs with a variety of experiences, from sports and art programs, to coding and robotics, to foam party days and petting zoos.

In 2020, with a pandemic forcing us to stay in our homes, Ridley Orchard and Children’s Forest quickly adjusted to remote learning and hands on discovery boxes at home. These unexpected events caused the innovative approach to continue supporting our children and families more than ever before.

Now in 2021 Ridley Orchard and Children’s Forest are merging in a new 10,000 sqft facility in our community to continue to serve children and families. We look forward to meeting again in person and working with all our families in the coming school year.

We are grateful for your insights and that you’ve entrusted us to do our best in supporting your children and family.

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