School History

August 1987: Desert Spring opens at the invitation of Rev. Jim Symons & Jeri McFarland of the First Christian Church. Sara VanSlyke and Jan Kincaid are the pioneer directors! There are 20 preschoolers plus seven 2-year-olds in a Montessori classroom.

1992: D.S. holds the 5th Anniversary Reunion & Spring Arts Festival. An investment of $5,000 is made for playground equipment.

1993: Jimmy Bussey Fund is begun.

1994: Partnership with ASDB supports D.S. becoming an Inclusion Program. Children perform for a third time at the Peace Fair. Families prepare and serve dinner for over 100 men at the Primavera Shelter.

1998: Kindergarten class phased out due to all-day kinder in public schools.

2001: Co-Director Jan Kincaid passes away on June 30, after many months of illness and suffering. There are now 44 children enrolled.

2004: NAEYC Accreditation received! Monica Brinkerhoff becomes co-director with Sara. Ongoing collaboration with United Way. D.S. becomes part of a pilot program called the 5 Star Rating System.

2007: 20th Anniversary Year! Classrooms are transformed as educators begin a deeper study of the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

2008: Locally designed curriculum structure created, desert element-themed classrooms named, and the beginning of the looping model (educators stay with same children & families throughout). At the first Dia de los Muertos Potluck families make a community altar. Staff goes to NAEYC Conference in Dallas.

2009: 20th Anniversary Silent Auction in the spring! The Hopes & Dreams Project is initiated. Sun Room is on the Reggio Tour of Sites for the first time in the spring, sponsored by Tucson Children’s Project, and a second time in the fall. D.S. becomes a Shaklee Distributer, replacing all cleaning products. NAEYC reaccreditation (in its new format) begins. Sun Room holds an Education Collaboration with parents to prepare for kindergarten.

2010: Tucson Children’s Project Reggio Conference, “Insights & Inspirations:” the Sun Room (3rd time) and Mountain Room (1st time) are on the site tour. Children from the Sun Room walk to the UA mall carrying signs written with In Lak’ech and Shades of Brown to watch the protests against SB1070. NAEYC reaccreditation received in July. Staff begins Professional Identity Project by constructing personal Identity Boards. Toddler grant allows for bathroom extension in the west wing. Labyrinth is built in October in a collaboration with First Christian Church.

2011: Educator Jade Epp dies tragically on January 2, a week before the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Desert Spring supports each other and the community. Earthquake and tsunami in Japan leads D.S. to host Tucson Japanese Mom’s Group and organize a paper crane folding evening to send over 500 cranes to Students Rebuild. UA Architecture School consults with D.S. concerning the RE approach to inspire their final project, “Public Dwellings,” and for an outdoor play space in South Tucson. TCP Conference, “Reggio in the Age of Standardization:” Sun Room (4th time) and Mountain Room (2nd time) on the site tours.

2012: UA Architecture consults D.S. for a second time for study of “Public Dwellings.” Staff continues Professional Identity Project by writing Belief Statements, inspired by NPR’s “This I Believe,” series. Ochoa kindergarten educators visit; four families will attend Ochoa’s RE inspired kindergarten for the first time. First book study (The Hundred Languages of Children and Bambini). Board is reinvigorated with new parents and an educator liaison (Jessica Walters).