In 2010, after being frustrated by the options provided by the public school system in Brooklyn, Kathleen Fink, along with the help of several parents from her play group, decided to take matters into their own hands.
They came together to help form Little Nest, a local preschool servicing the Ditmas Park, Windsor Terrace, Flatbush, Kensington, and Park Slope neighborhoods. Fink’s decision to start her own school, which is located at 511 Church Avenue, was sparked from an experience she had when seeking schooling for her son.
“I intentionally started Little Nest for my younger son Caleb,” Fink said. “We applied to 12 schools that year, and, although we ended up being wait-listed at a few, the tuition for those was untenable at the time.” Fink’s resourcefulness and quick thinking helped to create a new option for parents in similar situation. As she pointed out, “ I saw the need for this school in the neighborhood.”
With plans for Little Nest in the works, Fink, who at the time was working full time in the music industry, decided to make a significant career change and channel all of her energy into the school. As a lifelong New Yorker, and product of the school system here, Fink well understood the importance of education and what it meant to now have two young sons going through this process. Her career change also meant being able to utilize her undergraduate degrees in art and education.
Fink began developing a business plan and curriculum, as well as looking into the necessary licensing required to open a school. While it proved to be an incredibly daunting task at times, Fink knew her efforts would pay off.
“Although it was not easy to open a school, I knew it was something that would greatly benefit this area,” she said.
Fast forward to 2014, and Little Nest is now thriving with 28 enrolled students. Fink is as involved as ever as the director of Little Nest and often can be found teaching theater, music and arts-based classes. Little Nest currently has a staff of five people with a diverse background, which helps to cater to the unique needs of each of their students. Fink’s background in art is very much reflected in the teaching philosophy of the school, which strives to “teach children through doing.”
“Young children learn best through doing and we strive to creating a learning setting in which the kids here are learning beyond the classroom,” she said.
This teaching-through-doing approach is reflected in many of the project-based activities they offer – and also within the child-directed activities.
“Our curriculum is loosely based on the creative curriculum model,” Fink said in reference to a model used in many preschools today that is aimed at helping to children develop on all levels.
For three years, Little Nest had been located in Windsor Terrace. However, with real estate prices on the rise, and with their enrollment growing, Fink and her staff began looking for a new location. They decided on the Kensington neighborhood, to where they moved in 2013, because of affordability and the accessibility of the area. They were able to, Fink noted, move for “half the price and double the amount of space we originally had,” which she stressed is an advantage for their growing school. It’s also a convenient spot for many of the families whose children attend school here. Many of the families who go to Little Nest are in the Flatbush, Ditmas Park, Kensington, and Windsor Terrace neighborhoods.
Little Nest has also expanded the services that they provide to reflect what is needed in the community. Currently, they are in the midst of offering a summer camp to children ages three to six, and they are in the process of developing an after-school program scheduled to launch this fall. Fink and her staff are slated to start offering universal pre-K in the fall as well.
As a savvy business owner, Fink recently launched an effort to help utilize the space at Little Nest in a new way. With the help of artist Karen Merbaum and Barking Cat Studio, Little Nest transforms on weekends to host various themed birthday parties. Fink hopes to rent out the space to other artists and musicians in an effort to build community ties, as well as to expand the scope of what they are doing.
Little Nest is a welcome addition to the thriving community and will help to play a very active role in educating this neighborhood’s next generation.