Safari Kid is part of an international group of preschools and kindergartens first founded in Silicon Valley, California. WSA investigated what sets it apart from your average nursery or preschool.
Safari Kid operates a unique curriculum which was developed by the founder of the group, Shy Mudakavi, a Silicon Valley based entrepreneur.
Drawing on best practice from the Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf teaching programmes and focused on accelerating the academic achievement of children from the very youngest age, this is definitely an ‘outcomes’ focused nursery.
We were interested to hear that the Safari Kid team believe that a large proportion of their children will enter the school system a full 1-2 academic years ahead of their peers.
Location and leadership
Safari Kid Dubai is situated in a large ex-residential villa in the Satwa area. Close to the Sheikh Zayed Road, this is a handy location for working parents.
The villa is bright and airy and has a spacious garden area with swimming pool to the rear. There is a security guard on the main entrance and a buzzer entry system. The nursery has CCTV and a fingerprint recognition system.
On our visit we met Fruzsina Benyei-Anirudhan, Principal of Safari Kid. Fruzsina is Hungarian and has a three year old son who attends the nursery. She was previously with The Children’s Garden, a well thought of Dubai nursery (and part of the Taleem group). Latterly she Principal of Learning Land Nursery in Mirdiff. Fruzsina has great enthusiasm for Safari Kid and the advanced curriculum, and is clearly very proud of the nursery and her staff.
We asked Fruzsina how the curriculum and classes are taught. She tells us that there are four key elements to the Safari Kid curriculum, these being:
• Physical Development
• Creativity and Imagination
• Cognition, Language and Communication
• Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Progress is benchmarked against detailed levels and children move through the levels when they have attained a majority of developmental goals for one stage.
Individual development is assessed and monitored regularly and attainment shared with parents via the Safari Kid app and a Development Journal. Teachers also send lesson plans to parents on a weekly basis.
These key areas are delivered through a variety of ‘pathways’ – these being: Interactive Learning, Playing and Exploring, Creating and Thinking Critically and Reinforcement.
When we visited we saw children learning in a variety of ways, including sitting and listening to teachers, playing in a large indoor soft play area, messy play, outdoor play and using handwriting/phonics work books.
Rooms were well equipped. We saw a child height IT area which had inbuilt ipads, a PC and a Lego robotics area.
Fruzsina tells us that all the Safari Kid nurseries have a strong emphasis on technological learning, and attributes this to the group’s origins in Silicon Valley and the connections to the engineering world in this very specific region.
We were interested to find out how this busy, fast paced programme is tailored to each child. Fruzsina tells us that their staff (who hold a range of qualifications from Masters degree to (a minimum of) the Cache Level 3 EYFS diploma) are adept at assessing individual children and monitoring their progress through the stages of the curriculum.
Each teacher undergoes a minimum of 104 hours of specialised training when joining the group and there are regular collaborations with Safari Kid staff worldwide. Fruzsina is emphatic that despite the attainment orientated nature of this setting, this focus on qualifications and training ensure teachers are able to nurture each child at their own pace. She tells us that each child is encouraged.
On our visit we were particularly interested in a rather unusual art room in the garden. Housed in a shipping container (much like Box Park, Dubai!) the art room is a place where children can have small group art sessions. At the time of our visit the children were learning about Jackson Pollock and we saw some very energetic interpretations of the great man’s work!
The garden has a range of play equipment, safety flooring and is shaded in most areas. There is a small gated area for the very youngest children. There is also a small swimming pool which is used for extra-curricular swimming (delivered by a qualified swim teacher).
Other ECA’s include Karate, 'Creative Labs’, Ballet, Yoga, Dance, Lego Robotics, Arabic, French and Soccer.
Arabic and French are also delivered as part of core academic hours, with children receiving one 30 minute ‘immersion’ lesson of Arabic per day and one of French per week. Beyond this children who are in the extended day or full day program can opt for the Arabic or Mandarin language immersion program which is an hour and 15 minutes every day. Beyond this, children who are in the extended day or full day program can opt for the Arabic or Mandarin language immersion program which is an hour and 15 minutes every day.
We did feel that some class sizes here were quite large – we saw one toddler classes where there were 28 children.
We were impressed however with how the classes were structured, with one lead teacher, one junior teacher (both qualified, with the lead teacher having either more years of experience or a higher level of qualification) and a number of teaching assistants to ensure ratios are maintained.
With two qualified teachers the class can be split for focussed activities such as Circle Time or guided work.
Ratios throughout the nursery are as follows:
• Under 1 year - 1:3 (with a maximum of 9 children)
• 1-2 years – 1:4 (maximum of 28 children)
• 2-3 years – 1:5 (maximum of 24 children)
• 3 years + - 1:8 (maximum of 20 children)
A feeder to…
Children from Safari Kid progress to a range of schools, with recent graduates going to Hartland, Clarion, Swiss International School, Oaktree, North London Collegiate School and Horizon School.
This nursery is a new proposition for parents in Dubai. At WhichSchoolAdvisor.com we look forward to seeing the progression of ex Safari Kid children in the school system. Parents who are keen to accelerate their children’s academic progress from an early age would do well to visit Safari Kid and to make their own assessment of the curriculum and facilities.
What we loved
The Principal – committed, enthusiastic and wholly aligned with the Safari Kid ethos
Two qualified teachers per classroom
The commitment to delivering a very specific type of nursery education
Points to consider
The use of worksheets. Whilst we understand that Safari Kid uses worksheets as a ‘reinforcement’ activity, there are many Early Years educationalists who see worksheets as ineffective in a play based curriculum. We suggest parents do their own homework on this topic and define how comfortable they for their children to engage in worksheet activities.
Two days: 8900 AED per term
Three days: 10,500 AED (8am-1pm), 12,600 (8am-3pm), 13,600 AED (8am-5pm)
Five days: 12,600 AED (8am-1pm), 14,500 AED (8am-3pm), 15,200 AED (8am-5pm)
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