BrightPath Active Learning, a Westerville-based school/early learning center, is building a new home at 5940 Chandler Court in Westerville.

Erica Wares, BrightPath founder and director, said there are a lot of ways to create the early-learning space.

"A lot of programs are different variations of theme, not necessarily giving parents choices with the environment," she said. "My experience in Norway was a big influence. I saw the whole child healthiness of (children) playing outside."

BrightPath, which offers preschool, half-day kindergarten enrichment, school after-care and summer camps, has been leasing space within the American Baptist Church, 401 E. Schrock Road in Westerville, since opening in 2011However, it isn't affiliated with the church.

BrightPath purchased land for a new facility in 2019, and it held a groundbreaking at the new site Feb. 28.

Wares said the new center is scheduled to open in August and have a capacity for 110 students.

The center currently has about 25 students in the morning and afternoon.

Erin Carlile, who volunteers publicity services for BrightPath, said her son attended the early learning center for two years.

"It was so rewarding as a parent to know that three days a week, he got picked up from his pretty sedentary, worksheet-focused public kindergarten, and taken to the magical place that is BrightPath for the rest of the day," Carlile said.

"There, he not only learned just as much as he did in kindergarten, but he also got to experience lots of outdoor free play, field trips to Metro Parks, nature-themed art projects and in-depth learning about the natural world."

Carlile said she and her son were sad when his time there ended as he moved on to first grade.

The design of the new learning center is intended to support BrightPath's outdoor-education model, with barn doors opening up to outdoor patios for each classroom, a natural play area and outdoor-learning spaces with raised garden beds and an orchard.

The new site will allow BrightPath to serve families throughout Westerville and the surrounding school districts, including Olentangy, Big Walnut and Worthington, with scheduling options to supplement the part-time kindergarten schedules in those districts, Wares said.

She said she founded the program based on personal experience, going through different child care and early learning centers with her two daughters.

"We started with (offering) half a day when Westerville didn't have all-day kindergarten," she said. "Now we've started after care and before care. Now we have the offerings for parents to cover a work day.

"The program was designed to be a complement."

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