BY ROXANA BOYD | PHOTOS BY TOM SIMON
Now in its 10th year, the Morningside School has officially joined Orange County Living Wage’s roster, raising the number of child care organizations on the list to 15. Sadie Bauer (pictured above) started the preschool as a four-day program in 2012 with six children enrolled, adding extra space to her home in Carrboro to accommodate the school. Today, the school enrolls 12 children each academic year for a five-day program and has expanded further with a summer camp.
Sadie heard about Orange County Living Wage and its certification process by word of mouth. She already paid her co-teacher and assistant teacher a living wage but decided to become certified after she saw a sticker in the window of a local ophthalmologist office.
“I just thought it would be a cool way to help further the knowledge about it,” says Sadie. “There must be lots of other people in a similar situation that maybe just need one more push or one more sign to encourage them to be aware of it.”
The certification stickers around town also stand out to Zuzana Love, whose 4-year-old son attends The Morningside School.
“I’ve loved living in Carrboro and Chapel Hill and seeing the living wage sticker around the businesses,” she says. “Orange County Living Wage’s work makes it more visible by highlighting the businesses that do pay a living wage.”
Sadie wants the people she works with “to be able to afford the food that works for their body, a comfortable place to live and the health care they need.” She believes a living wage reflects the humanity of the people doing the work and wants her employees to feel respected, worthy, and valued.
‘A Magical Place’
Sadie founded The Morningside School with a focus on emergent curriculum and nature- and inquiry-based learning. This unique philosophy continues to draw her to the work today. One of the ways she and her staff kick off the school year is by diving into what their students are curious to learn.
“We work emergently with them as they become interested in bugs or friendship or animals – one year it was coffee machines,” Sadie says with a laugh.
The teachers develop prompts, questions, and queries around the children’s interest, sparking them to learn more. Then, they add in the important skills they want to teach – communication, pre-literacy, pre-math, social skills, and the ability to cooperate and think creatively.
“It’s unique in that the kids really have a lot of ownership over their own experience and their own education, and that in and of itself leads them to be more invested and more engaged,” says Sadie.
She hopes their experience at The Morningside School will lead them to be problem solvers and to understand that learning can be fun and interesting.
The school’s nature-based learning has grown over the years, particularly during the pandemic. Sadie says the children not only spend time outside but also learn how nature affects wildlife and our own experiences – our moods and our choices of activities.
“It’s a magical place,” says Zuzana. Her son was unsure about school at first after being at home for two years during the pandemic, but that hesitancy disappeared after just two days at The Morningside School.
“I think that speaks volumes about how much he loves it,” she says. “He just blossomed into this social and curious and imaginative guy.”
Her favorite aspect of the school is the way the teachers nourish the students’ imaginations. She also notes that children are taught how to make decisions and to consider how they affect other people.
“The teachers are just the kindest, most patient, sweetest human beings,” says Zuzana.
To learn more about The Morningside School, head to its website.