That's right! Adventures For Young Explorers is turning 16 years old this week!
In 2004, we had just moved into our first home. My oldest daughter, Stephanie was about to turn 2 years old, and I had something very special planned for her birthday gift. Since Stephanie was used to living in a very small apartment, it was not difficult at all for me to hide an entire room in our new house from her. The door to the room was right at the top of the stairs and was right next to a hall closet. I kept it closed and locked our first two months in the house, and she barely seemed to notice it as she passed by each day. She might have just thought it was a closet.
It wasn't a closet. It was a magical room. I big, empty room that I intended to turn into a school. Stephanie would be getting a school for her second birthday....
Every afternoon during Stephanie's nap, and every night after she went to bed, I worked on creating her school. I decided to send our future students a permanent encouraging message by calling the school Little Engine Academy, and painting a mural of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper onto the wall. Once the mural covered all four walls of the classroom, it was time to paint the ceiling. I turned the overhead light into a "sun" and painted clouds all over the blue ceiling that looked vaguely like shapes and characters I thought the kids would recognized but only with a little imagination. I bought a bottle of glow in the dark paint, and with the handle end of my paint roller, I painted glow in the dark dots into constellations all over the ceiling.
I lined up toy boxes to be the cars of the train and created a Little Blue Engine out of cardboard to sit at the front of the train.
On Stephanie's 2nd birthday, we had a train themed party and at the end of the party, I read The Little Engine That Could to all of our party guests, and then had all the little kids form a "train" line with hands on each other's shoulders and the birthday girl at the front. We sang "Train is A-Comin'" as we marched up the stairs together and opened the mystery door...
And our little school was born. Happy birthday, Stephanie! and Happy Birthday, Adventures for Young Explorers!
About the Author by Sydney Caddell
Jen Caddell has inspired students at Adventures For Young Explorers (formerly Little Engine Academy) since 2004. She has worked with special needs students as an applied behavior analyst since she graduated collage. Miss Jen became motivated, after she had her first daughter, by watching the movie Daddy Day Care to start a summer camp for kids ages 2-6 in 2004. The following Fall a parent asked her to begin a year long school that students in the Charlotte, North Carolina area could attend. The school continued to blossom. In 2016 a parent in California came upon the Young Explorers website and requested Miss Jen to begin working with charter schools in California. She is now an approved vendor for a dozen charter schools in California. Miss Jen now impacts and educates students all over the country!