The Earth Tortoise School

  A Montessori Community for Infants and Toddlers



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Community Outreach Meeting Summary

Posted on 12 November, 2016 at 0:55 Comments comments (4)

Last Sunday, November 6th, we had our first Community Outreach meeting to talk about some of our plans for The Earth Tortoise School and what we need to do to get there. We had a good turn out and great discussion with ideas shared and energy built up. Thank you to everyone that attended and to those of you who couldn’t make it but expressed an interest in staying updated and being involved.

Here is a breakdown of what was discussed:

1) The house that we currently reside in, 221 NE 117th Ave, was owned by Maya’s mother-in-law. She has recently passed away. It is now held in trust by her two sons. However, the house cannot stay in the trust for an extended amount of time. It must be bought from the trust. Erin and Maya have considered and looked into the possibility of purchasing the house themselves. However a concern that came up during this investigation is that this purchase might extend their income to debt ratio, and therefore their available credit, to a point that would prohibit future loans. As it is our hope to eventually grow and move out of 221, future loans are an important consideration. With this in mind, having a third party investor purchase the house seems like a possible solution. As we work with possible investors, we want all of you to know that this will in no way affect the day to day operations of The Earth Tortoise School. We will only work with someone whom we know and trust to have our best interests at heart. If you have any questions or concerns about this now or as this process moves forward, please come to us at any time.


2) Erin and Maya have been building a vision for The Earth Tortoise School from its inception. We now see this need to eventually move from our current location as the opportunity and driving force to manifest this vision. It includes a beautiful new space that has room for a non-mobile infant classroom, a mobile infant classroom, and a toddler classroom. We are considering also opening a preschool classroom as we see the need for high quality and education growing in East Portland. A preschool classroom also provides financial viability as larger teacher-child ratios for older children creates more income for the whole program as a whole. We would like to have a nature-scape outdoor space with room for exploring, gross motor experiences, sensory experiences, animals, and a garden. And finally, we would like to have multi-purpose space. This would be a space that the children at The Earth Tortoise School would benefit from as an indoor gross motor space, a community gathering space for Parent Education Nights and other community events, or for extra-curricular activities such as music class and large art activities. It could also serve as a space that could benefit the larger community. We envision family focused classes, workshops, support groups, support resources, etc. having a home here.


3) In order to facilitate some of these community programs to their fullest, we have decided to create a non-profit organization separate from The Earth Tortoise School. This would grant us access to grants, financing and other resources that privately owned businesses do not have. It would also set the tone for a community driven, community based resource for children and families that could have far reaching significance as we hope to both create certain programs but also partner with already established programs in the area.


4) So getting down to the nitty-gritty… We have lot of work ahead of us. As our jumping off point, we need to:


a. Settle on the ownership of 221 NE 117th Ave

b. Create a non-profit organization

c. Create a business plan with budget projections for both The Earth Tortoise School and the new non-profit

d. Research and then secure financing options – loans through the SBA and private banks; private investors, grants, and fundraising, etc.

e. Find a new space – ensuring zoning, occupancy, and licensing requirements


We are reaching out to our amazing community for help. Erin and Maya are in the classroom most days. Simply, finding the time to accomplish these tasks is tricky. We are also not as knowledgeable in some of these areas as the members of our extended network. So one of the ideas that came out of this meeting is to establish task groups to facilitate some of these action items with a central coordinator. In the next few days to weeks, we will be reaching out again to establish these task groups. In the meantime, if there is something in particular that you would like to become involved with or have a strength that you could share, please let us know. We have started a volunteer list. Expertise and experience in business planning, budget projections, financing and fundraising, and non-profits are resources we will lean on at this point in our venture.

Once again, thank you so much for your support, input and help.

Warmly and with love,

Maya Bowen and Erin Tooze

The Earth Tortoise School




Our First Community Meeting - November 6th

Posted on 28 October, 2016 at 0:15 Comments comments (75)

Dear Earth Tortoise School Families, Alumni, and Friends,

Thank you so much for the outpouring of support we received in response to our community outreach letter. It was very touching to hear from all of you. So we would like to officially invite you all to our first Community Meeting.


Community Outreach Meeting

Sunday, November 6th from 10am to 12:30pm


Portland Midland Library

805 SE 122nd Ave, Portland OR 97233

Large Conference Room


Brunch will be provided


We hope that this weekend brunch time will allow families the ability make arrangements for child care. Though babies in arms are very welcome, mobile infants and busy toddlers will not allow us to focus on the discussion at hand. We want to be able to devote our time and attention to your questions and input.


Thank you so much and we hope to see you there!


Warmly, Maya and Erin



A New Adventure Begins

Posted on 8 October, 2016 at 15:15 Comments comments (4)

September 30, 2016

Dear Earth Tortoise School Families, Alumni and Friends,

The Earth Tortoise School opened in the fall of 2009 out of Erin’s home with only 6 children. By the summer of 2011, we were able to move into our current location with 12 children and we hired our first official employee. Quickly we grew to having 16 children, 2 full time employees and a part time employee. We settled into our new space happily and have loved our time here ever since. We feel so blessed to have been able to develop amazing relationships with children, parents, and the larger Montessori community. Through open, honest communication and genuine caring for the families in our community; through events such as annual family outings and pot-lucks, Parent-Teacher Conferences and Parent Education Nights; through our work with county and state Early Intervention programs as well as with private providers of therapy services we have cultivated close, respectful and supportive relationships. And we have felt such tremendous support in return. Our appreciation and gratitude cannot really be expressed in words. We thank each and every one of you for your contribution to this community! All of this has solidified, in our hearts and minds, our desire to build community and serve families.

For the past year, we have felt the tug to expand. In our current location, we can provide care to 4 infants. But we see a growing need for infant care and would like to expand to be able to serve more families with infants. In general, East Portland is seeing a lot of young families moving in. We would like to offer services beyond child care that provide resources and build community – a gathering space, an educational space, a peaceful retreat. We envision a meeting space for continuing early childhood education, for community groups, for classes for children and families. We see community gardens and children playing. We have so many ideas! At the same time, we do not want to become huge. We love our intimate space with its personal relationships. This feeling of warmth and closeness is something that we need to maintain.

While we have been keeping an eye out for suitable properties or resources, we have not been in much of a hurry. We have been waiting for the “perfect fit”. However, we realize there is really never the perfect time or the perfect opportunity. These are things that we have to make happen. And recent changing circumstances have made us feel that now is the time to begin working towards these goals. As you may or may not know, the home that we currently reside in was owned by Maya’s mother-in-law – Dene Bowen. It has provided us an amazing opportunity and has worked wonderfully for the time we have been here. However, Dene has recently passed away and the house is now held in trust by her two sons. Though there is no pressing need to move, we feel that it is now best to separate school and family business. And with our minds on finding a new location, our dreams and visions are looming large and are suddenly very possible.

However, as with many things in life, we cannot do this alone. We want to build community but to do this we need community support. We are reaching out to you. Between us, we have endless areas of expertise, skills, resources, and ideas. We would love to hear from you about what has worked and what needs improvement, what needs do you see in the community, what resources are lacking. We want to hear your questions and your advice because we realize that our success would not have been possible without you. Our continued success must be built on giving back.

We would like to therefore invite you to a community/development meeting in mid to late October.

If you are interested in hearing more about our vision and ideas, if you are interested in providing us with feedback and advice, if you would like to get involved in helping us navigate through this new adventure, we hope that you will join us! This will simply be a preliminary meeting where we plan on explaining the options we have considered, what might be involved in achieving these options, and then hearing from all of you.

Please RSVP to [email protected] to let us know if you are interested and would like to come. We plan on booking a meeting space once we know how many people are interested in attending. Look for this information soon! In the meantime, thank you again and we hope to see many of you there. We look forward to hearing from you and learning from you and basing our development on the needs of our community.

With love, appreciation and gratitude,

Maya Bowen & Erin Tooze