Big Chief is a family-owned business established by Ruth Eleanore Picinich and Joseph Picinich in 1954. They both had a passion for children and decided to open one of the first nursery schools in the area. Ruth Eleanore (Miss Eleanore), an early childhood expert, and Joseph (Uncle Joe), a carpenter, built an environment where children could flourish. Miss Eleanore designed developmentally appropriate programs for the different ages coming in. Always keeping in mind that children learn through their senses, offering hands-on experiences and themes that the children were interested in and fun. That’s the best way to learn! While running the school, Miss Eleanore also ran staff development and parent workshops at night. She believed that school and parents working together was in the best interest of their child.
Meanwhile, Uncle Joe built classrooms, made child-sized furniture and cubbies, and developed and created outside playgrounds. Forts with bridges, ladders, and slides. Boats with different levels, many steering wheels, lookout platforms with telescopes, and a lot more. All to develop a sense of adventure, enhance their imagination, strengthen their motor skills, social development, and have fun. Barns were built, ponds were created, and outside cages were filled with ducks and chickens.
Children would learn to feed and take care of them and collect eggs. Rabbits to hold and pet, even piglets named jack and jill and a pony named lucky could be found in their barn or walking around the corral. So, Eleanore got busy developing a fantastic science and nature program outside and inside the classrooms that to this day surpasses what another school could imagine. The children at Big Chief love being around the animals. Even the parents dropping their children enjoy passing the animals and saying hello. I genuinely feel that the children who come to Big Chief leave us with a special place in their hearts for animals. Around the two and ½ acre property, gardens were dug up. The children still, to this day, plant bulbs in the fall and vegetables in the spring. Apple trees were planted years ago, and now they pick apples every falls right here at Big Chief. Over the summer into the fall, while children are out to play, they pick and eat strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans. Outdoor learning has always been a part of our school. To quote one of our families, “Big Chief is a truly magical place.” Come for a tour and learn more about all our programs.