Collaboration, not competition
At Adventure Mamas, we function under the premise of collaboration, not competition; overall, we’ve been pleased to see that this is the reigning mindset in our industry. The organizations that are working within this niche are encouraging, supportive, and invested in one another’s success: it-is-beautiful! There are so many amazing, diverse resources designed to get families outside– from global organizations like Hike it Baby to more localized groups such as Wasatch Little Explorers Club to inspirational and educational projects like Born Wild. They’re each unique, valuable, and doing some truly outstanding work. We figured that while we were rambling about the epicness that comprises our industry, we should formally introduce you all to TINKERGARTEN, ya know, in case you haven’t met.
Tinkergarten is reinventing what early childhood education could look like and the concept is garnering attention across the country. Recently, we chatted with the passionate individuals behind the scenes and -wow- they are amazing. Their palpable stoke and enthusiasm is contagious and learning more about their mission and history has us inspired.
Read on to learn more about Tinkergarten and show them some love while you’re at it… we need more love, community, and encouragement in the world! They’re offering 15% off spring sessions for the Adventure Mamas community using code AMI15 through March 3.
Alright, let the Q&A commence:
Can you give us some details about Tinkergarten?
Tinkergarten brings early childhood education to a park near you. In our classes, kids enjoy the freedom of independent exploration through expert-designed play-based activities that lend from the research and best practices in early learning to promote the development of critical capabilities, including self reliance, creativity, persistence and problem solving. Each Tinkergarten class is led by a trained, certified leader — often mothers — who bring a healthy, social, and engaging learning experience to their community.
Tinkergarten was founded in 2012 by Brian and Meghan Fitzgerald. We began in 1 park in Brooklyn, and now have 400+ leaders across 34 states. We are expected to grow to over 1,000 by this time next year. Tinkergarten is backed by some of the most well-respected education/social impact investors who believe in our team, mission and our sustainable model.
How big is your team? Tell us about the culture at Tinkergarten.
We’re a small but powerful team of a dozen people who support a widespread network of talented leaders. Our team culture is something that we all value greatly. Last week, as a team, we were reflecting on what went well in 2016. Our team culture is something that rose to the top. Tinkergarten has a supportive culture committed to celebrating the value of all people and the natural world we all share. We care deeply about early childhood learning and getting kids outdoors; and that shared passion fuels the team to learn, problem solve and do our very best to get more families learning together outdoors.
Who are your leaders?
Our leaders are community members, often mothers, who value play, learning and the outdoors, and giving back to their community. They bring a range of talents and are all exceptional at connecting with both children and adults. For those leaders with children, they find that Tinkergarten is flexible, meaningful work that complements being a parent. Our leaders’ children are always welcome at class. We hear that leading Tinkergarten is transformative for the whole family.
“I’ve got a whole new definition of what work can be. I spend my time helping kids and parents in my community, and I’m learning more about myself than I ever have. I’m outdoors more, I get exercise, get messy and laugh, and my son tags along with me—I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”
Tinkergarten Leader, Brooklyn, NY
How can people learn more, start a conversation, or ask questions?
Join the movement of thousands of families learning outside together. Sign up for our emails. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Find a Tinkergarten® class in your community, nominate a leader to start one, or use our free DIY activities to enjoy some well-spent time with your kids.
What is the vision of Tinkergarten? What do you hope to accomplish and how?
Tinkergarten started as an answer to an acute concern Brian and I had as educators turned new parents. We worried about the trends we noticed in childhood, specifically that time to play and explore is increasingly absent from childhood and that children were increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Having worked in schools and start ups, we both felt strongly that the skills children need to build most, like creativity, problem solving, persistence and teamwork, are just the skills earlier generations developed through unstructured, social play outdoors. We knew so many parents, like us, who were worried and wanted to give those experiences to their young ones, but weren’t sure how to do it.
Our vision at Tinkergarten is to give all kids access to high quality early education and an early childhood full of child-led play in nature. We believe that by finding, training and supporting talented leaders in communities and making it possible for them to create an exceptional play environment and facilitate children at play, we can help children build the foundation for a list of essential skills like creativity. We also believe that this program will also give parents the opportunity to learn more about how play based learning and nature contribute to their child’s development, giving them a community of likeminded friends and ideas about how to support their child’s development outside of class.
What differentiates you from other organizations that get children/families outside?
The three things that most differentiate us are:
- Our deep focus on education and our research based curriculum.
- Our technology infrastructure which allows us to scale quickly and at high quality.
- Our community, culture and brand. We have an incredible dedicated and engaged community of leaders and families who share in this learning experience and support one another. Although we are growing really rapidly, our community continues to feel very personal and connected.
What are your core values?
- Lifelong learning starts at birth and never stops.
- We value all people, and we learn best together.
- Parents are their children’s most powerful teachers.
- Nature is the ideal classroom.
- Learning is and always should be joy!
- Trust children.
- Family comes first.
What changes do you see in children when they have opportunities to play outside regularly?
When I was a classroom teacher, I would have done anything if someone told me its effect would be to both stimulate my students’ attention and calm or help them focus. And, that is just what natural settings naturally do. The ever changing, irregular landscape filled with colors, sounds, textures, smells (and even tastes) for which we have an innate affinity both pique children’s interest and soothe them. The result is typically a calmer, more satisfied and engaged child, both during the class and afterwards, not to mention a better night’s sleep that night!
The learning tools of the outdoors (sticks, dirt, water, rocks, tree fruits, etc.) also come with no directions and no limits to their potential uses. I have noticed children develop their capacity for imaginative play and sustained play as a result of more time and freedom in outdoor settings if families continue to dedicate time to play outdoors, especially in a social setting, children
How do you balance a family and work?
Great question! From the start, we have worked to create a company that values family first, supporting our teammates at balancing our passionate dedication to Tinkergarten with the ultimate jobs of being partner and parent. We designed the leader role to be flexible, to include the chance to have children be part of a leader’s teaching experience and to easily accommodate the life changes that are part of having a family. For our core team, we have no vacation policy and welcome teammates to take the time that they need to remain balanced, happy and gratified by both work and home life.
As co-founders, we also have the unwavering support of our own parents, extended family, friends and a fantastic caregiver who all help us make sure that we can love and tend to Tinkergarten while knowing that our girls are always loved and cared for.
Learn more about Tinkergarten by checking out their beautiful website and spend some time exploring all of the amazing resources available there. Click here to find more info about becoming a leader and here to find classes in your area.