NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – When the Giving Nest Preschool & Kindergarten in North Plainfield at St. Luke’s Church opened its doors in September 1990, the goal was to provide the community with a different approach to early childhood education.
As parents to young children and educators themselves, co-founders and co-owners Mary Sue Frank and Debbie Hannon wanted to offer a safe, nurturing and academically stimulating environment where preschoolers could learn, create, socialize and play while also learning the joy of being kind and giving to others.
“The world we live in, even back in 1990, is very ‘me focused’ and one of the things we felt strongly about when we started our school, and still feel today, is that young children need to learn the gift of giving,” said Frank, a child development specialist for 40 years.
“The goal was to provide a place that was peaceful, calm and unrushed,” added Hannon, who prior to the Giving Nest taught elementary and early childhood education and also holds degrees in Spanish and Bilingual Studies.
When the Giving Nest of North Plainfield first opened its doors 25 years ago, just 56 students between the ages of 2 1/2 and 4 years were enrolled in its four half-day programs. Classes were three hours long – a different approach to most preschool around at the time that offered just two and a half-hour programs – and taught by Frank and Hannon with assistance from family members.
But, as the need for early childhood education grew, so did the Giving Nest. Within the first two years, the North Plainfield school expanded, offering more classes, full-day programs and kindergarten and today the school averages around 190 students a year and a combination of 18 full- and half-day preschool programs.
As enrollment at North Plainfield began to grow, new locations opened throughout Somerset County. In 1998, Frank and Hannon opened a Giving Nest in Watchung followed by Martinsville in 2001, Bridgewater in 2003 and, most recently, Warren, which opened it doors in 2013 and is unique in that it only services children 18-months to 30 months.
All of the schools feature small classes sizes, which allows for one-on-one and individualized attention, and follow the same age-appropriate curriculum. Established and re-evaluated annually by Frank and Hannon, the Giving Nest curriculum focuses on social skills, reading readiness skills, math/science readiness skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills and language skills.
“These days, our children are learning so quickly but it’s important to always remember how young a child really is,” said Hannon. “They are so bright we sometimes forget that they have only been on the Earth for 3 years, a year of it was spent sleeping. We have to have realistic expectations for our children and remember to give them lots of love, hugs and positive attention”
Additionally, daily activities at the Giving Nest focus on manners, sharing and helping those less fortunate with the theme of being helpful, kind and good ‘bucket fillers’ resonating in all the Giving Nest schools.
“I am a firm believer that birth to five years of age is key in a child’s development. It is the time when the wires in a child’s brain are connecting and it is our awesome responsibility to ensure that what we say and what we do is child developmentally appropriate,” said Frank. “Along with the ‘academic’ piece in education we must ensure that providing experiences that focus on friendship, compassion, respect, manners and giving are part of a daily classroom experience.”
Giving Nest Preschools in Bridgewater, Martinsville, North Plainfield and Watchung offer a variety of half- and full-day Monday through Friday, Thursday/Thursday and Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes for children 2 1/2 to 5-years along will early morning and late afternoon extended care services on as needed basis or permanent basis. The Warren school offers full- and half-day programs for children 18- to 30-months. Additionally, both Martinsville and North Plainfield offer full-day kindergarten while North Plainfield, Martinsville and Watchung offer a variety of age-appropriate afternoon enrichment classes. Age-appropriate, themed summer camps are also offered at Warren and Watchung each year.
“There are very few preschools that have the longevity that we do. Many of our teachers have been with us a long time, some as long as 18 years, and they truly love their job and the children,” said Hannon, who currently serves as director of the Watchung school, adding that these days many of original students are now sending their own children to the Giving Nest while some of the teachers have been with the school since their own children attended. “The Giving Nest is a very special place to be. I look forward to coming to work everyday,” said Hannon.
For enrollment information or to schedule a tour or learn more about the Giving Nest Preschool and Kindergarten, visit http://www.givingnestpreschool.com. Prospective parents can also contact the school of their choice by calling North Plainfield at (908) 754-2060; Watchung at (908) 222-1003; Martinsville at (732) 302-1321; Bridgewater at (908) 704-9555; or Warren at (732) 893-8222.