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Celebrating the Students of the Austen Riggs Nursery School

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The Austen Riggs Center is unique in many ways, not the least of which is the little red school house on its campus – home to a nursery school, founded in 1955 by Joan Erikson, where children from the local community gather to learn, play, and prepare for elementary school.

Here, Riggs patients can apply for positions as teacher’s aides, working alongside nursery school teachers in a wide variety of capacities, depending upon their interests and strengths.

The nursery school is part of the broader Activities Program at Riggs, in which patients take up the role of student in a variety of creative disciplines. Artisans and teachers—specialists in their fields, and not trained as clinicians—work with individuals and groups, opening possibilities for creative expression and the use of new skills. The program includes a greenhouse, theatre, and studio space for ceramic arts, fiber arts, woodworking, and visual arts.

Austen Riggs Nursery School graduation 2017 recap.

Recently, the Austen Riggs Nursery School held both its annual art show and its year-end celebration, two events organized to recognize the work of the children, parents, teachers, and all those who contribute to the school’s continued success throughout the year.

The art show enjoyed an authentic art gallery show at Riggs’ Lavender Door Gallery on Main Street in Stockbridge, complete with a festive, kid-friendly gallery opening and reception. Visual Arts Instructor Mark Mulherrin, Lead Teacher Lisa Blake, and a teacher’s aide worked collaboratively to set the show, which remained on display in the gallery, open to the public, for about a week.

The year-end celebration, held outside on a warm and windy day this year, featured themes of gratitude and community. The many individuals whose work makes the school possible were recognized and thanked; in her opening remarks to the parents and community members in attendance, Nursery School Director Ilana Ackerman, MSW, stated, “The school would not be possible without this community.” Medical Director/CEO Dr. Andrew J. Gerber, in his remarks, elaborated, saying, “It’s such a fundamental part of the program we have here at Riggs, because it illustrates the way we come together.”

A recap of the 2017 Austen Riggs Center Nursery School graduation.

Amidst the speakers, appreciations, and acknowledgements, the nursery school children entertained the audience with a few songs, were recognized, and those moving on to kindergarten were presented with moving-up certificates.

Toward the end of the year-end celebration, Nursery School Teacher Cara Williams addressed the teacher’s aides and the important role they play at the school: “We are grateful for all of you . . . your willingness to give of yourself, your talents, your willingness to take on the daily challenges of the nursery school (which are many), but most of all for your commitment to the children . . . your active engagement ensures that the legacy of Joan Erikson’s vision – activity, recovery, and growth – will continue to live on for generations to come.”

A recap of the Austen Riggs Center Nursery School's end of year activities.

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