Elise Valsquier – Teacher, Director of Field & Forest Programs
Elise Valsquier brings a love of simplicity, a keenness for life-long learning and a strong belief in the wisdom of children to her role as one of the original and current instructors of the outdoor preschool, and is honored to be supporting The Attic’s outdoor programs for young children as the Director of Field & Forest Programs. Growing up a Northwest native she spent much of her time in the outdoors living her motto- If you got wet and dirty, it must have been fun! Her educational background covers a lifetime with many topics including constructivist teaching methods, positive communication skills, child development and attachment, healthcare, mathematics, biology, ecology, primitive skills and tipi habitation, herbalism, writing, calligraphy, and equine management and massage.
In 1998, following a decade of work in healthcare, and with her new baby in arms, Elise immersed herself in the deep subject of parenting. This led to work with La Leche League, where she supported local families with lactation and parenting information, and later as the Area Coordinator of Leaders of Washington she supported 130 Leaders serving thousands of families. She currently fosters children’s relationships with nature (via horses) as an Advisor to the Warm Beach Camp Vaulting Club, and she has been spectacularly blessed by teaching at The Attic Learning Community since 2009. Teaching with this phenomenal community has given her a deep grounding in constructivist teaching and fluidity with the dance of supporting child-led learning. Elise feels that honoring our children, their passions, and their connection to the earth is the most powerful way to create a better world.
Elise has sailed in the Galapagos, Tongan, and San Juan archipelagos, and loves a good trip on the water as much as a hike or horseback ride in the forest. Elise enjoys life in a small clearing in the woods with spouse Leslie, daughter Ruth, their dog, cat, two horses, an ever-changing flock of chickens and a plethora of books. Ruth is also a passionate learner in the high school group at The Attic.
With a lifelong love of nature acquired during a childhood in New Jersey spent mainly outdoors, and with an inherently playful outlook on life, it is Brian's objective to bring the passion he has for discovery and learning to children of all ages in a fun and interactive way; and in doing so, to foster positive and lasting connections between people and our surroundings.
Brian is thrilled to "go back to Preschool" and brings his belief in play as the preschooler's best path to learning to our program, along with his extensive experience as an outdoor educator, most recently with the Quiet Heart Wilderness School, and the Wilderness Awareness School. Brian often shares his impressions of the preschool day in a weekly poem he emails out to preschool families.
Before moving to Washington, Brian spent nine years, from 2001 to 2009, as a supervisor, mentor, and teacher in his position as Program Coordinator of a New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium where he worked with children aged Kindergarten through High School. Brian supervised field programs serving over 16,000 students per year and during his years there he developed new programs and shared many of his personal interests with the participants, including "primitive" technologies, operating a plankton magnet, collecting sand, and occasionally talking like a pirate.
While not engaged in a creative project driven by his unfettered curiousity, Brian also works at Trader Joes where you may catch him helping customers or juggling the limes.
Chelsea Ernst - Teacher, Field & Forest Programs
Chelsea holds a great deal of care and passion for the world’s wild places, be they the apple tree in the backyard, the garden bench, or the glaciers on Mount Rainier. Chelsea grew up exploring the salt marshes and beaches of coastal Georgia, where live oak trees and sandcastles began shaping her sense of play and connection to the natural world. Through her work in education and all aspects of life, she hopes to help others cultivate this sense of play and connection.
Chelsea studied Environmental Biology and Ecology at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. Here, learning the science behind nature's communities led to her interest in educating human communities about their connection to the natural world. She has been cultivating those connections ever since, through her studies, travels, volunteer instructing with Explorations Academy in Bellingham, and Lead Instructing at Wilderness Awareness School summer camps. In 2016, she finished a Master's Program in Environmental Education through Western Washington University and North Cascades Institute, then joined the Field and Forest program team! She believes in supporting free exploration in nature, encouraging all learning styles, the power of inquiry, and the magic of storytelling.
Chelsea also works at North Cascades Institute. She loves rock climbing, cycling, backpacking, gardening, and aerial arts.
Born, raised, and schooled, in the city of Cork, Southern Ireland, Freda (Freddie) attended The Crawford Municipal school of Art before leaving Ireland to travel in Europe, and she also worked in the field of occupational therapy for mentally and physically handicapped youth, before traveling to the United States in 1986. She lived and worked in various areas of California until 1990, at which point she moved to Seattle.
Over the years, Freda has traveled extensively, throughout Central and South America, the Greater Middle East, Asia, South East Asia and Australia, and has worn many 'noble' hats to earn her keep along the way. She has worked as a chambermaid, nanny, waitress, fruit picker, receptionist, macrobiotic cook, tour guide, jewelry maker and last, but certainly not least, a wombat hole filler- inner. And, all of these journeys and experiences, have without little doubt, widened my perspective and contributed to her better being. And she can honestly say, that her growing started in earnest, once she left the traditional confines of school and society.
Freda's most recent avocation has been in early childcare. After being a 'stay at home Mum' for six years, she found that she needed to reinvent herself once more, and was kindly invited to come on board at the preschool that her daughter Maya had been attending. She worked as an assistant teacher at the Monarch Preschool in Seattle for ten years, and enjoyed every minute of it. Since 2005, Freda has attended North Seattle Community College to study various areas in early childcare education, which have included: Connecting and engaging children through genuine interactions, understanding Literacy, and the exploration of Autism and related disorders.
Freda chooses to work at The Attic Learning Community, where her daughter, Maya, now flourishes, and has great heart in being a part of the Field & Forest teaching team, because it is a trusting and forgiving environment to be in, and one in which a human soul, could only thrive. Freda delights very much in being around 'little beings', and grows more when she is in their precious company; their outward innocence has a way, of summoning hers to the surface, on any given day, and gives her joy to no end.
| Pat Orrell– Attic Learning Community Executive Director & Co-Founder
Pat Orrell, MST, is the Executive Director and a co-founder of the Attic Learning Community. Pat is a passionate educator. During the past seventeen years, she has led the evolution of the Attic from a small one-room school-house to a thriving multiage educational model. Pat's leadership and vision has transformed research-based educative ideals into concrete educational practices which nurture passion for learning, sense of self, childhood and community. In addition to her work co-founding and leading the Attic, Pat works as an independent Science Educational Specialist, helping teachers and teaching-parents to create inquiry-based and child-centered science learning environments. Pat is hoping someday to be a child at the Attic.