On a recent afternoon, Ginny Brown kicked off her shoes and sat on the rug for circle time at The Global Child in Stonington. After a full day of work as Director of Pupil Services for Guilford Public Schools, Brown seemed to have come home. Her son Owen, 6, climbed onto her lap and joined the other children in listening attentively as their two native Spanish-speaking teachers led the lesson in English and Spanish. They played games and sang songs, proudly displaying an emerging Spanish vocabulary.
It was in April 2009 that Ginny Brown, as a visiting Stonington educator to a sister school in China, witnessed children speaking two and three languages fluently and learning about global culture. A year later, with business partner and husband Jason, she began her foray into bilingual education, offering Mandarin and Spanish language enrichment classes to children in the Stonington area.
"Learning second languages and understanding various cultures will be not only essential in the world our children are living in, but will be a natural part of their lives," Ginny Brown said. "Our children will be competing with children around the world for jobs and opportunities. The marketplace is a very different place since the time when [people] simply competed with and worked with others who live in their own community. Children will need to have many more communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills."
Encouraged by parents and responding to the needs of the community, the Browns expanded on the concept of early language enrichment and founded The Global Child Early Childhood School and Care Center in 2011, serving children from birth to six years. As parents and longtime educators, they developed an age-appropriate early education curriculum that integrates exposure to a second language and culture through music and art, learning and play, led by teachers whose first language is Spanish.
"When Ginny returned from China and we started the language enrichment classes, research was coming out in the press about how in the wave of the future children need to know English, Spanish and Chinese," Jason said. "The stars began to align. We knew we wanted our children to speak two languages, or at least be aware that most people speak their language and English and other languages. We wanted more for our children but there was not much opportunity to get that exposure."
With cautious optimism, they opened The Global Child at 769 Stonington/Westerly Road in Stonington. Situated in a large, comfortable space adorned with children's art and organized activity centers, open areas for free play and quiet corners for private time, the school offers a flexible schedule and payment plan to accommodate families' needs. The cost is competitive for the area.
"The Global Child is unique in a variety of ways," said Ginny Brown. "First, we are an early childhood school and a care center. We understand child development and have aligned our curriculum with the State of Connecticut benchmark and frameworks. Most of our teachers have been with us since we opened, and are highly qualified. They are invested in their work, the education and care of the children..."
Ginny described "low or no teacher turn-over" as "essential" to childhood development.
Parents of students attending The Global Child mirror such sentiments with enthusiasm. Carla Frisbie, whose two young children attend the school, refers to The Global Child community as a family.
"I call it a family because the preschool offers my children a safe, nurturing, family-like environment where they are thriving," said Frisbie. "To say that my children love this school is an understatement. Every morning they ask if today is a school day, followed by a big "Yay!" ... The Spanish component is integrated seamlessly into the curriculum and adds to all the fun."
Connecticut educator and parent Emily Noyes said she has also seen her child James thriving in the school's environment.
"The most meaningful aspect to us is that the program is a balance between play — so important for this age group — and school readiness," said Noyes. "We want our son to love learning in many ways and he always wants to come to school everyday. We also love that the staff has remained the same, as high teacher turnover was a concern for us..."
While The Global Child is their first venture into operating a school and care center, the Browns have always been involved in education. Ginny started her career as a kindergarten and special needs preschool teacher and continued as a principal for eight years before being named Director of Special Services for Stonington Public Schools. Jason, a copper sculpture artist by trade, earned his master's degree in education and taught business education at Westerly High School before delving into the role of school director at The Global Child. The two met while still in college, working summers at The Watch Hill Inn; she growing up in Stonington, he in Westerly.
"This is not a position I thought I'd ever find myself in," said Jason. "We're in this because our hearts are in it. The kids refer to me as 'Mr. Brownie,' which I think is great. They are just adorable, and the parents have been wonderful."
A dedicated father and assistant coach, he spent a recent cold, rainy Saturday at son Jack's soccer tournament in Glastonbury. "It's all the entertainment I need. I live to go and see my sons playing soccer and lacrosse."
Ginny described Jason an ideal role model for their boys. While she plans to work exclusively at The Global Child in the future, Jason's contributions to the school and each aspect of family life right now allow her to remain employed by the public educational system, to gain more insight and information on current trends and policy changes.
The Global Child, eighteen months in, continues to grow and has enrichment classes scheduled for the summer. "Currently we offer classes in Chess, Spanish, Legos (pre-engineering), Mad Science and Kindermusik," Ginny said. "We believe that we are truly the most special place for children to learn and grow and that our investment in what we do makes the time the children spend with us the most valuable experience that contributes to their school and life success."
For more information: theglobalchild.weebly.com; 860.599.9734