St Michael’s Play Garden – Impressions from a Dad

We moved to  Cebu in mid- 2011 from Manila, and after finding a place to live and getting settled in, finding the right school for our son was at the top of the to- do list. Lukas was three and a half years old at the time; finding other kids for him to socialize with was not an easy task, and so we hoped pre-school would fill that hole.
A few months later, in a stroke of good fortune, we were referred to St Michael’s Play Garden in Banilad, and I can recall that first visit clear as day.
The school had just recently opened (as a matter of fact Lukas would be one of the first students) and renovations of the property were underway as we arrived. It was immediately obvious that there was a lot of thoughtfulness and care being put into the layout both indoors and out. Nearest to the school proper was a small pond with three ninja turtles, (their names being the same as the teenage mutant ninja turtles of the cartoon/movie- Michaelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello….I think I got that right… haha), and a wide variety of colorful trees, herbs and flowers were being planted around the perimeter of the outdoor play area. The classrooms were clean and orderly, shelves along the walls were lined with natural looking wooden toys and other imaginative play things, and there was a stove and small kitchenette in one of the rooms where we were told the kids will do some supervised cooking – picking fresh herbs and vegetables right from the garden, measuring out of ingredients and so forth.
How cool was that?
After the tour of the grounds, we met with Grace Ferreros, the owner of the school. Speaking with Grace and her faculty was like being eased gently into the warm and shallow part of a very deep pool. Lukas is the eldest child and so we wanted his early school experience to be a good one. (I guess what parent doesn’t?!) I was so impressed with the level of interest in our child that was shown; the questions that were asked, the time allowed and spent; the very real and genuine passion for teaching and caring for children was clearly evident.
It was a done deal after that first visit. We wanted Lukas to attend St Michael’s Play Garden.
Since that first day there has never been a moment where we weren’t happy with our decision. Our daughter, Rachel, who is now 2 1/2, started pre-school at St Michael’s when she was 18 months. (Actually we kept begging Grace if we could start her even earlier because we knew the caring and nurturing environment she would be in, but their policy was 18 months and Grace made us wait until that time.)
All of the staff and teachers at St. Michaels are incredible. Honestly. I am not just saying that to score brownie points with them. ;-)  Across the board, the same degree of interest and nurturance that was evident on our first visit has continued throughout the past almost two years. The school has grown and I love that they continue to invest resources, time and money, into doing things such as building a very cool looking native hut on stilts. (I know there is an actual name for this type of hut but it escapes me right now….lol), and building a jungle rope climbing apparatus.
The program is big on developing a rhythm for the kids, a consistent routine which they can count on. Outdoor play time is mixed in with indoor time and the opportunities for learning are in both we were told; and while watching them over the year, that has become clearer.
The school has a friendly and very open vibe. Parents are encouraged to get involved and that has not been just lip service. Field trips and a multitude of school events allow us to get to know the other parents and their children, which really creates a fun atmosphere. And kid’s birthday’s at St. Michael’s are truly unique. A brief story is written with the highlights of the child’s life thus far being read out loud as they walk down a star, moon and sun filled piece of cloth. Really….the amount of time and effort spent into making the day special for our kids is priceless.
100% -St Michael’s PlayGarden has been a great experience thus far for Lukas and Rachel, and in addition, for me as a father, because while spending time at the school, I get to re-live some of the wonders of being a kid again….  :-)

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