Mariposa’s distinctive qualities have been in place from the beginning—a special, warm quality of relationship; literacy through the arts; play and movement; experiences in and with nature; family engagement; healthy food and an emphasis on well-being— all interwoven into a cohesive whole.
When we began, we envisioned Mariposa as a place that would nurture and protect each child’s emerging sense of self during the first seven years—a time so critical to the foundation of a child’s life. Mariposa would value beauty, nature, health, and family, as well as incorporate artistic and contemplative practices. We hoped to attract others dedicated to the art of teaching and service, and to create a space where adults—teachers, family, and community members—could participate; cultivating their own capacities to listen, reflect, and contribute their gifts. Two funders were excited by our vision and provided seed funding for our pilot programs.
“Our son is now in third grade at Highlander Charter School and he is doing amazing. We know he is a bright and loving child but we also know in our hearts that Mariposa had a big part to play in his success!”
In our first two years, we offered a number of programs at the Highlander Charter School; our weekly family and child program; and our Literacy through the Arts program, which partnered eighth and third graders. We also offered an afterschool program for Highlander second, third, and fourth graders called Story Journeys. Those afternoons began with healthy foods and a special snack served family-style. Warm and lively conversation was followed by a program of art, literacy, movement, music, and drama. Each six-week session focused on a specific story. Once a week, we transformed the Highlander music room into an early childhood space that also welcomed family members.
Engaging the Community
In 2007, with the help of Roger Williams University’s Pro Bono Collaborative and Hinckley, Allen & Snyder we became incorporated. Our Board met regularly as we worked on our vision and mission, and searched for new space and new partners.
Three gifted teachers traveled to Providence, donating their time to Mariposa because they, too, believe in the importance of cultivating compassion, listening, and creative action through education. Arthur Zajonc, physicist and director of the Mind and Life Institute, shared his insights on the importance of contemplative approaches to teaching, learning, and research. Joan Almon, founder of US Alliance for Childhood and member of Mariposa’s Advisory Board, gave a public talk on play and learning at Mariposa’s Spring 2011 event at the Providence Children’s Museum. And Gertrude Hughes, professor emerita from Wesleyan and Mariposa board member, shared her thoughts about the relationship between poetry and contemplative inquiry during our Contemplative Series. We continued to reach out to others in the community and organized a well-attended film showing of Where Do the Children Play, co-sponsored by the Providence Children’s Museum and Highlander Charter School, with panel members Julia Steiny (journalist), Elaine Mangiante (URI), Elizabeth Burke Bryant (RI Kids Count), and facilitator, Janice O’Donnell (Providence Children’s Museum).
The seeds of Mariposa had taken root. In the spring of 2009, we were chosen to participate in the Rhode Island Department of Education’s Pre-K Demonstration Project. Our first teaching team brought creativity and dedication to the challenges we faced that first year. By 2011, at the close of the demonstration project, Mariposa was contributing to the conversation about early childhood education at a state level. The following year, we received a three-year RIDE grant to provide one of the state’s first public Pre-K classrooms.
Turning to the Future with Gratitude
Today, we feel great confidence and gratitude for what each of our teachers, staff, board, and supporters brings to Mariposa. We look forward to finding a permanent home with a natural playground space that can support a full Mariposa program from infant to Pre-K.
We look forward to new funding partners who share our vision and can help make it possible!