Mount Desert Nursery School
Northeast Harbor’s Beloved Preschool Since 1978
15 Tracy Street, Northeast Harbor
Meet Our July Featured Business: Mount Desert Nursery School
This month’s MD365 featured business is the Mount Desert Nursery School, located at Maple Lane and Neighborhood Road in downtown Northeast Harbor since the late 1970s. Cherished by current families and alumni alike, MDNS has earned a special place in the heart of the town. It is not uncommon for the school to welcome back former students as parents enrolling small children of their own. Keep reading to learn more about the history of this neighborhood institution that has contributed so much to our community.
The Mount Desert Nursery School property was donated in 1976 with the intention of it eventually housing a childcare center. By 1978 the facility was fully licensed by the state of Maine and welcoming its first classes. From the beginning, Mount Desert Nursery School took an open approach to education by not committing to a single methodology, instead integrating elements of the popular Montessori and Waldorf philosophies into their own child-centered curriculum. Current director Aaron Long points out that, in a small community like ours having the flexibility of multiple teaching and program styles helps the school stay agile and respond to the needs and strengths of each child.
For Long, the “whole child focus” many childcare centers claim is more than just a soundbyte. At MDNS teachers provide different levels of structure to the day for different students without undermining relationships between students or the school’s sense of community. Each week of the year the Nursery School follows an enrichment schedule that includes art, music, gym, and library classes. As coach of the Mount Desert High School track and cross-country teams, Long leads physical education classes for the Nursery School. During the winter months The Neighborhood House generously opens its doors to MDNS, giving the kids sorely needed space to run, jump, and fend off the inevitable symptoms of cabin fever. Throughout the year MDNS students travel to the Northeast Harbor Library to read with the librarians. For art classes, community member Mike Duffy joins MDNS students and Carla Tanguay comes in to teach their weekly music class.
Since healthy eating is a high priority at MDNS, the school provides lunch, as well as morning and afternoon snacks that are wholesome and nutritious. Core staff teachers prepare these meals, sometimes with the help of students. While the school is licensed by the state to enroll up to 27 children, Long and his staff try to keep enrollment between eighteen and twenty, as the optimal number for their space.
In order to maintain its affordable tuition rates in the face of economic challenge, MDNS, as a nonprofit 501(c)3 public charity, relies on the generosity and support of the community. Every August the school hosts a Summer Fair and Silent Auction as a fundraiser with food and fun family activities. In celebration of their fortieth anniversary, MDNS has plans to make this year’s Summer Fair extra special. The bounce house and dunk tank will be back again this year, but will be joined by a special guest concert by beloved Maine children’s musician, Rick Charette.
Operating a daycare and pre-Kindergarten facility continuously for forty years takes dedication and commitment to community, especially in a town whose year-round population has decreased by over half in that time. For the families that live and work around Mount Desert, MDNS provides a service that is both needed and desired. We are so grateful to have this institution as a key part of the town’s social infrastructure and look forward to their next forty years helping our town grow.