Our mission is to heal and transform community through early interventions in education. We work to give every child a strong foundation for lifelong learning, health, and well-being.

Disparities in Early Childhood Education

In the US, there are clear disparities in the quality of early learning and care that children receive. Reggio and Montessori schools are often private and charge high tuition fees to run a high-quality program. Children of means access schools that value their ideas and voices. However, children of lower-income families often have little access to resource-rich early learning options. These programs pay less and are more stressful. Therefore, they often are not able to nurture the freedom and creativity of a child. With fewer resources, their primary concern becomes keeping children safe and maintaining order in the classroom. This means that we are not activating the full potential of all of our youngest citizens.

Census Tract 164

As reported by the Center for American Progress, there are 181 children, under age 5, living in Census tract 164. Census tract 164 does not have one licensed childcare provider. This qualifies the neighborhood as a childcare desert. The median income for this area is $12,589. There is a clear and urgent need for a high-quality early learning center for this community.

Raphah Institute works so that marginalized children can access learning that maximizes their creative potential and inspires their natural curiosity. We are developing the critical thinkers who will build healthy, sustainable and beautiful communities in the future.

Confronting Inequity in Early Learning

In summary, Raphah Institute will address several core problems impacting children and families:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
  • Census Tract 142 is a childcare desert.
  • Nashville, in general, lacks enough high-quality, affordable early learning options.
  • Low wages and poor working conditions lead to high stress and high turnover rates in the early education field.
  • Low-income families do not have sufficient access to early learning programs that offer a child-centered approach. Private, high-tuition early learning centers dominate the landscape of schools using inquiry-based or project-based curriculum.
  • The high cost of childcare/early learning leaves families financially burdened.

Why Reggio?

The future of our world is rapidly changing. Technological advances, climate change and cultural transformations require that future generations are flexible thinkers and problem-solvers. We need global citizens who are creative and can communicate their ideas. For this reason, more and more schools around the world are using the Reggio Emilia approach. First, it develops children who are able to collaborate with others. Through collaboration, children learn how to design new solutions for the challenges and opportunities our world will encounter. Second, Reggio schools use project-based learning and emergent curriculum. Here, children ask questions and pursue answers to what interests them. Finally, children engage in conversations and collaborative investigations in order to make meaning of the world around them.

The Reggio educational philosophy also values the role of community and families in learning. We see parents as just as much a part of the school as the children and the educators. Our organization recognizes that to have thrivent early learning experiences, we must engage the adults who spend time with children. Therefore, in addition to our early learning center, we also offer programming that empowers and inspires family members and educators.

Early Embrace

Rooted in the Reggio Emilia approach and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, Early Embrace heals. It allows children to feel loved, cared for and hear. By nurturing their social and emotional development, we prepare children to lead healthy and resilient lives. Serving children ages 6 months to 4 years old, we are a laboratory school. We constantly research best practices that contribute to the holistic wellbeing of our children.

Program Highlights:

  • Program capacity: 74 children
  • Serves children ages 6 months-4 years old
  • School is open 7:30am-5:30pm
  • Offers transportation
  • Healthy breakfast & lunch, served family style
  • Emergent curriculum & project-based learning inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach
  • We document classroom learning through daily reflective journals
  • We document children’s individual learning & development quarterly portfolios
  • Teaching coach on staff to support classroom educators offer high-quality learning
  • Utilizes a co-teacher model in each classroom
  • Art teacher & creative studio
  • Natural spaces: Indoor and outdoor classrooms
  • Community garden

Target Client Population

Our target client population includes families experiencing poverty, especially families living in subsidized housing. We will reserve 50% of the spots in our early learning centers for families experiencing extreme financial hardship. These families will also receive priority placement for the remaining availability at the early learning center. We will make remaining spots available to North Nashville families and families that earn less than $70,000 as a household.