Chinese in the Garden is an outdoor, pre-K through 5th grade Chinese language enrichment program designed for an outdoor learning environment where children use their 5-senses to explore arts, gardening and science while getting exposure to Mandarin Chinese.
Because children love to play outside! At Chinese in the Garden, we believe learning should be fun, dynamic, purposeful and done, when possible, in nature. We strive to provide an experience where children can have the balance between guidance and self-discovery, where they can explore the outdoors and get exposure to Chinese language through meaningful and engaging content.
Parents know that young children have an amazing ability to absorb language. Toddlers first learn to converse with their families and friends through everyday experiences — no classroom necessary. Young children also learn in this same effortless, intuitive way, and are adept at learning new languages. The program encourages this learning with relevant content that fosters interaction with our teachers. Each session will help children learn functional Chinese through exposure and repetition. With consistent participation in our program children learn vocabulary, simple sentence structure and conversational phrases.
Teaching is fun and invigorating! We love and cherish the opportunity to learn with, and from, your children. We celebrate and respect a child’s fascination, curiosity, creativity and passion in their approach towards life. In return we hope to inspire in our kids a love of nature, a respect for learning and an interest in Chinese.
"Niki Laoshi is simply one of most amazing educators I have ever met. She understands child development and has a natural empathy that is so critical to being an effective teacher."
The Chinese in the Garden program offers an age appropriate mix of gardening, art, science, singing, and introduction to Mandarin Chinese. The program is flexible and can be adapted to meet the specific needs of your school.
Our program starts with a ritual circle that welcomes each child. This is also an opportunity for us to talk about the main activities for the day. Depending on the children's age, the circle may also include singing.
The main activity typically includes hands-on gardening, art work, or science experiments centered around a targeted theme. While the classes build on lessons from previous sessions, we always observe the children's interests and can modify our plans to expand the lessons on a deeper level.
Each class ends with a closing circle that celebrates our shared time together, and gives appreciation for the factors that made the class fun — a helpful friend, the butterflies in the garden, the feel of the warm sunshine, or a Chinese song we sang.
If you are a preschool, elementary school or other childcare provider serving children ages 2 to 10 and are looking for an enrichment Chinese language experience for your children, we can work together!
An existing garden is not a requirement for the program. If you have an outdoor space and are open to the outdoor classroom concept, we can work together in building your garden and tailoring the program to your school.
Niki Ren is the founder of Chinese in the Garden. Over the past 12 plus years, she has worked with children from ages two to 8th grade in many different learning settings ranging from bilingual Montessori preschool, public elementary schools in Berkeley and Oakland, toddlers program at the Lawrence Hall of Science and middle-school program at the Edible Schoolyard. She has drawn inspiration from these diverse experiences and come to the conviction that learning can and should be sensorial, dynamic and filled with purpose and joy!
Born in Beijing, Niki started out in the traditional Chinese primary education system before immigrating to the US, where she attended middle through graduate school. Chinese in the Garden draws on these diverse educational experiences and cultures, reflecting a desire to balance structure and freedom in education.
After earning her BA from UC Berkeley in Business Administration and working in the business world, Niki found her passion for teaching. She received her Master's in Human Development from UC Berkeley's Developmental Teacher's Education program on a fellowship and satisfied her multiple subject teaching credential course requirement.
After becoming a mother, Niki had discovered her interest in early childhood education when her son, Oliver, started preschool. She has since taught at a Mandarin/English, bilingual Montessori school where she began to explore many of the ideas that would eventually inspire Chinese in the Garden.