Wildflowers Studio Has Blossomed in South Burlington
There is something of a propitious nature taking place at Wildflowers Studio of which Vermonters may just want to take notice. Situated at 1 Executive Dr., Suite 103, South Burlington, VT, Wildflowers is the new “multi-sensory creative play space” aimed at children aged 18 months to 10 years old that recently opened for business. Within this venue, little minds are freely expanding through four specific learning areas: Open-ended art, paint exploration, sensory play and tinkering.
When Lyndsy Blais and Samantha Spisiak combined forces, it was almost a foregone conclusion that their shared passion for early childhood development would result in a unique environment aimed at cultivating young imaginations. It began with an idea that both ladies knew would answer a need within the community. When they discovered the only community development credit union in New England was ready to participate in their endeavor, a 27-page business plan was pursued and the rest is a tale of Vermont’s great fortune.
It all began just over a year and a half ago when the nucleus of an idea was formed by Lyndsy, a mother of four from Colchester. With over 13 years of experience as an educator holding dual degrees in psychology and education, Lyndsy brings a wealth of experience working with a cross section of ages and abilities. Following her passion to work with kids, she has participated in a wide range of educational fronts throughout numerous settings. All of this exposure and experience proved to Lyndsy that there is immeasurable value in play and its influence on the course of learning.
Samantha’s degree in health science along with her experience working as a nanny has exposed her to fulfilling opportunities working with young minds. Sam also recognizes the significance of play and how it naturally leads to discovery for young people. She shares Lyndsy’s passion for creating a safe, nurturing setting where children are allowed to expand their thinking processes while having fun. The combined accomplishments of these two women beautifully dovetails in providing a way to help kids infuse their brains with hands-on, experiential curiosity spurring the ability to expand conceptual thinking.
Greg [at Opportunities] was like a breath of fresh air.
Initially, Lyndsy was simply speculating on a method of learning that encompassed all the positive parts of teaching she had successfully exercised in her work. “I started thinking of ways I was going to get back into education without going back to the public school,” Lyndsy confessed. With “just a framework for what this place would be,” she continued, “I just met Sam and realized that she would be the perfect person to do this with me.” She approached Sam and asked her what she thought of the idea. The two of them bounced back and forth between the excitement and possibilities of this unique business venture.
Sam was concerned that neither of them had business degrees nor had they any business acumen for that matter. Lyndsy said, “We had the human piece of it, but we did not have the business piece.” Even after being rejected by their first financial institution, that told Lyndsy and Sam they didn’t have a fighting chance at making their dream into a reality, the women were not ready to give up. Lyndsy ran a lot of their questions by her CPA who eventually suggested they reach out to Greg Huysman, the Business Development Manager at Opportunities Credit Union.
According to Lyndsy, Greg at Opportunities was “awesome to work with” after dealing with others elsewhere who left them feeling as though their dreams were being shot down. Lyndsy said “Greg was like a breath of fresh air.” Sam said this journey “has been like a whirlwind,” and with such a cycle, it naturally produces energy. Lyndsy has no doubts that everything she has done, personally and professionally, has led up to this moment.
Lyndsy wanted Wildflowers Studio to be a place where she could bring all the activities adapted from researching books, blogs, and background experience in the home; a place where moms, dads, and caregivers could come and “let their kids be free, explore, and get messy.” Lyndsy asserts, “it’s not just art, either. It’s tinkering and sensory playing and all these other amazing things, and then they can go home, and there is no mess to clean up. You can leave; shut the door.”
Sam added that “the place itself kind evolved pretty organically. Like the bathtub filled with sand. We didn’t have that idea originally,” Sam clarified. “I found that bathtub, and I was like, I want this! We filled it with sand and knew it would be a hit. Usually, that’s how things happen for us.”
Lyndsy has researched the science behind their endeavor as well. Their long-term vision for the community centers on the direct impact children’s activities can have on the nation’s GDP down the road.
According to Lyndsy, “there is evidence to support how children exercising regular creative activities develop the kind of innovation that may eventually produce patents and improve the odds for the future as these young people become the adults who just might go on to start their own businesses.” It all relates to how play helps to rewire the brain to think in more creative ways. Using the imagination through play tends to call upon intuition and uses analogous thinking to solve more complex problems.
Both Lyndsy and Sam agree that sensory play allows for continued learning the way it started: Using all five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. They affirm that through the valuable experience of hands-on play, developing minds are stimulated. There are countless nerve connections being made in the process of sensory play. It encourages fine and gross motor skills, supports language development and cognitive growth, enhances social interaction and assists with problem-solving skills. Lyndsy and Sam contend that rather than think of declining creativity as a troubling crisis, they have chosen to see it as an opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of those within the community.
They both know that memories are anchored when busy hands let the mind wander while remaining actively engaged in a project. It establishes a mind/body connection that is both calming and therapeutic, particularly when playing with stuff that is soft, wet, sticky or cold. Adults even enjoy it whether or not they are willing to admit it. Parents are encouraged to engage with their kids at Wildflowers Studio. Sam spoke of a mother with two sons aged 1 and 3.5 years who shared, “Nothing like this exists in this county!”
Lyndsy and Sam want to ensure that Wildflowers provide simple and weird ways to allow young developing minds to use divergent thinking processes. They concur with the research that shows curricular activity, much like social norms, enforces constraints that inhibit creativity. They want to give both the children and the parents, guardians, and caregivers the freedom to try and fail early and often with how things fit together, how they feel, how things work, and how they might work better, figuring things out in free-range thinking and play.
What are These Noodles For?
Just as Lyndsy and Sam have experienced the collaborative brain power of sharing a mission, they both acknowledge “every time we are together, we feel like our brains are like popping off each other. It’s kind of like ping-pong. It’s really cool.”
Similarly, when the kids engage in group activities, they are integrating each other’s ideas, introducing concepts to which they already relate as they discover and inquire more. Rather than teaching, the ladies are relying on how the kids learn in the way their own minds work. This gives them the freedom to self-direct in their unique learning process. As Lyndsy and Sam sit down with parents and their children, they model for them how to be an engaged observer and to use leading questions such as: “I’m so interested in what you’re doing with those noodles. You have such a great start, where do you think you will go next?”
Lyndsy is pleased to admit that at Wildflowers Studio “we don’t have anything that has batteries; we have nothing that makes noise. We have a pool hose we turned into a phone, and you can listen on either end. Anything that does have noise comes from the kids, comes from their ideas.”
Greg Huysman helped Lyndsy and Sam finance their studio in the months leading up to the opening. With the support from Opportunities, the ladies are in a unique position to benefit from the way they like to coordinate with many public and private entities in order to be able to target markets and leverage their resources.
While they have not yet had much time to explore other products available through Opportunities, they say they will definitely use them as their financial institution for personal banking and finance. They recommend Greg’s excellent customer service and Opportunities Credit Union to anyone who is interested in pursuing their own journey toward starting up their own business within the community.
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