Three Jardín Mágico centers rebrand as Casa de Corazón

Cofounders of the fast-growing Jardín Mágico daycare, a Spanish-immersion daycare and preschool, are parting ways and splitting the centers into two companies.

One of the companies is rebranding as Casa de Corazón, featuring a new curriculum at the Nicollet Avenue, Edina and Maple Grove centers.

As part of the new curriculum focused on social responsibility, some of the kids recently made thank-you cards for Minneapolis police officers and snow removal workers. In recent weeks, children learned about Nshima, a common Zambian dish made with corn; learned about extinction in conjunction with safari animals; learned to tell time; and saw the Greek and Turkish alphabets.

The center has always served organic food and used cloth diapers. Now they’re adding cloth napkins, more locally-sourced meats and green cleaning products.

“You can do it all if you’ve got the right minds in the space,” said Casa de Corazón Executive Director Natalie Standridge.

Standridge said she understands the importance of low turnover in childcare, so she’s working to improve a wide range of employee benefits: living wages or above, 75 percent contributions to monthly health premiums, 401k benefits, paid maternity leave and extended leaves of absence to allow international travel.

Staff are working toward accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Infants in the program comprehend Spanish by one-and-a-half years of age, and they’re fully bilingual and responding in Spanish by preschool age. Standridge said children are naturally receptive to learning a new language.

“Anytime before five years of age is the best time,” Standridge said. “They pick it up like a sponge.”

However, it’s never too late to learn, she said. She personally started Spanish classes in sixth grade, minored in Spanish at the University of Minnesota, and studied abroad.

Standridge and Xavier Lopez founded Jardín Mágico in 2002. Lopez will retain ownership of the centers in Eden Prairie and Minnehaha Avenue, and he is also working on a new center in the former Nokomis Lanes building on Bloomington Avenue.