A private vegan preschool and kindergarten will open in Cincinnati, Ohio in January 2018.
According to one of the founders, Caroline Cadwell (whose daughter will attend), Heart Montessori will focus on empathy and compassion. The Montessori style of teaching combines yoga and meditation to build self-esteem and compassion, with following a traditional academic syllabus.
“The main impetus is for students to manifest the most exquisite version of themselves,” says Caldwell. “Now more than ever with kids being bullied and kids having low self-esteem, integrating practices like yoga, mindfulness and meditation helps kids deal with stress and pressure in a healthy way rather than taking it out on others.
"It’s not that other schools don’t teach empathy and compassion, but we wanted it to be the focus."
This extends to the food served to students, which Caldwell says will be 'healthy, organic, seasonal and plant-based', using produce grown on the school's own premises. Meals and snacks will be prepared by acclaimed vegan chef Mark Stroud, who is also one of the founders.
As well as serving vegan meals, children will be encouraged to interact with rescue animals at the nearby Jubilee Animal Sanctuary, which currently houses horses and is looking to expand to take in rescued farmed animals too.
The school building is currently undergoing renovations, and true to the ethos of Heart, the work is being done in as sustainable way as possible. "Sustainability is important," says Caldwell, a reflection of features like the clay-based paint being used to paint the interiors where possible.
This focus on sustainability extends to the school's curriculum: after spending two hours on academic work, children will enjoy 'outside time', where they will learn how to tend the gardens as well as explore the local area. Caldwell concludes: "I get so excited for that opportunity for my daughter."
Heart Montessori is part of a growing trend towards vegan schools, which was started by film director James Cameron and his wife Suzy in 2015, when they opened MUSE.