Imagine a place where kids are free to create, climb, build, explore, imagine and ask questions. Loving Space School in Bellingham provides an environment where children are empowered to find their own voice. It offers experiences that help them to figure out who they are as a person.Mount Baker Theatre

“I started Loving Space in April of 1993 with the intention of providing children with a healthy, creative, loving space to play – hence the name,” says Abby Franklin, school founder. “My original intention has grown into a passionate commitment to protect childhood.”

Teacher Erin Merenda enjoys sharing her passion for art with the kindergarten students at Loving Space. Photo credit: Cassandra Darwin.

After 25 years in Bellingham, Loving Space’s goal is still the same: to provide children the space for real play.

Located in two iconic red schoolhouses on Ellis Street, Loving Space has programs for children in preschool (ages three through five) and kindergarten (ages five through six). The preschool has dedicated areas for different types of play that are always available to children. For example, the loft area has costumes for dramatic play and the quiet room centers around a comfy couch with a large selection of books. Other areas at the preschool are dynamic and constantly changing, like an indoor swing that is switched out every day. “I want them to come to school with a sense of wonder and excitement,” says Franklin.

Loving Space has a tradition of marching in Bellingham parades. Here, the school is assembled for the Procession of the Species parade. Photo courtesy: Loving Space School.

The science area offers children a chance to observe bugs and bring in plant clippings from home. This kind of hands-on learning offers an activity that “seems risky but is also safe,” according to Franklin. New experiences are just as valuable as childhood favorites and the outdoor areas at Loving Space are really special. A fruit garden that is open for picking, zip line, bubble station, dedicated mud kitchen, bikes and a climbing tree are just a handful of the outdoor options waiting to be explored.

A kindergarten program was added in 2001 when Loving Space purchased the building next door to the preschool. The kindergarten class, or as Franklin calls it “kindy,” also has plenty of time to freely explore and has six added focus times in their curriculum. Art, science, math, reading, writing and life skills are part of the focused learning time for these older children. Students that have graduated from Loving Space often stand out to elementary school teachers. First grade teachers have noted that Franklin’s students are confident, ask questions and have the ability to express how they feel and what they know.

Rosie Gehring has been with Loving Space for 20 years. Reading with the preschool class is her favorite part of the job. Photo credit: Cassandra Darwin.

The philosophy at this school allows children to make their own decisions. “They are given the freedom to listen to their own inner voice,” says Franklin. Her passion for early childhood education is clear from the minute she starts speaking about Loving Space. “Every day this work is so meaningful,” she says. “I get to witness the impact these experiences will have on each child.”

Franklin builds a strong connection with each student and many alumni come back to volunteer their time at Loving Space. The sense of community at Loving Space School really stands out. Franklin has ensured that there are enough teachers to allow each child to get the personal attention they need. And the teachers have been around almost as long as the school. Franklin works to ensure that each part of this school community feels valued—students’ voices are heard, parents are involved throughout the school year and teachers are paid well. This unique learning environment is supported by school families and the Bellingham community. They have a goal of raising $25,000 at this year’s special anniversary fundraiser.

Rules at the preschool allow children the freedom to explore. Photo credit: Cassandra Darwin.

To celebrate Loving Space’s 25th anniversary they held a dance party for the entire family with DJ Wild Rumpus, including both live and silent auctions, dessert dash, wine wall and much more.

The school created a video to mark this milestone which showcases a variety of the special experiences the school creates every day for its students.

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