Philosophy of Care


We believe nurturing a passion for learning and retaining the wonder of childhood are of utmost importance.  During the early years, learning is so fun that most children do not even realize their play is their learning.  We thoughtfully encourage this love of learning and wonder through the activities of our early childhood curriculum. Play is the young child’s natural way to develop physically, socially, emotionally, and academically. This play is especially beneficial in an environment that has been thoughtfully prepared for young children's development.  Thus, each part of our day and our learning environments, both indoors and outdoors, are prepared to encourage imagination and creativity; develop early literacy and numeracy skills; focus on fine and gross motor skills; understand the importance of both activity and rest; engage in both imaginative and practical work and play opportunities. The children’s imaginations and creativity are stoked by painting, storytelling, puppetry, and by imitating the gestures, songs and verses in morning meet-up and afternoon good-bye circle time. The rich language content and repetitive elements of our daily activities and circle times help develop the listening and attention skills that are so important in the development of literacy. Numeracy skills unfold naturally through activities such as baking, building with blocks, and setting the lunch table. Ample time is given to practice fine motor skills and gross motor skills both indoors and outdoors. Children naturally want to share in the practical work of the world around them, too. Each day, they help by feeding and gathering eggs from our chickens, preparing snacks, or weeding and watering our gardens. Each opportunity to participate in life in an age-appropriate way helps the children to develop their capacities and skills as growing human beings.


A special focus is placed on free, self-directed outdoor play each day.  We know, and research has shown, that freely chosen outdoor play allows children to practice many of the skills necessary for success later including social competence, problem solving, creative thinking, and skills involving safety and risk. Children are able to grow by developing an appreciation for their environment, participating in independent and cooperative play, and acquiring an understanding of how to use simple tools to accomplish a task. Outdoor play also offers children opportunities to explore their world; enjoy diverse sensory experiences with dirt, water, sand, and mud; find or create their own places for play; collect objects and develop hobbies; and increase their physical activity.  Our outdoor play space has been thoughtfully designed to encourage activities as detailed above.

Our Vision, Mission, and Statement of Purpose
Our Vision


To nurture and teach children so that they may go forth into the world with a peaceful and self-confident nature.




Our Mission


To fully and freely develop the capacities of each child by nurturing heart, mind, and body through expressive, imaginative, and meaningful work and play.




Our Statement of Purpose


We believe all that surrounds young children is important. In a most wonderful way, young children are open to the environment surrounding them, and they are drawn to experiences that enrich their lives. We believe that children learn best by doing, and thus, play is the serious work of childhood. We seek to encourage and protect the innate sense of wonder, beauty, and creativity of childhood.  We strive to provide a warm, peaceful, and loving place to work, play, and create. We believe that the capacities for creative thinking and active learning are developed through a healthy balance of activity and rest, direction and free play. Our ultimate goal is to foster the development of children with inquiring minds, care and compassion for themselves and the world around them, and a passion for learning that will continue all their lives.

Staff Biographies

Dr. Stephanie Luster, MSSW

Director and Teacher:           

            A love of children and a desire to ensure a passion for life-long learning is ignited are two of the reasons I chose to found the Arcadian Day School.  My PhD studies in Marriage, Family, and Human Development as well as being the mom of three young daughters cemented the knowledge that our children are our greatest assets and they must be brought up well.  However, in today’s societal push for increasingly earlier academics for children, I am encouraging a different pace… one that allows for growth and nurturance of the whole child.  Academics are important, but before one can become a lifelong learner, a passion and desire for learning must be established.  Therefore, the day, the aesthetic, the tools, and the teachers at Arcadian Day School embody this belief and strive to create a warm, homelike learning environment that encourages each child to grow with regard to mind, body, and heart.             

           Prior to opening Arcadian Day School, I worked as the Director of Quality Assurance, Research, and Evaluation at Sojourner Center, a service provider aimed at ending domestic violence.  I also worked as a teacher and research assistant at Brigham Young University for four years.  I taught Parenting and Child Guidance at the university level and have published several articles and chapters on shyness, social withdrawal, and parenting across cultures.  I graduated at the top of my class from Columbia University’s School of Social Work and also graduated with Highest Honors from the University of Iowa with degrees in Social Work and Psychology.  I have extensive experience teaching and working in play-based, developmental, and Reggio preschools and child development centers.


            My free time is spent with my children and husband.  We are intent on bringing a bit of my childhood in the cornfields of Iowa to life in the desert, creating art together, hiking and camping in the beauty of Arizona.  I also continue to work as a faculty associate in Arizona State University's social work department.


           I am so blessed to partner with Ms. Arielle Mason and Ms. Jessica Headley in our journey of creating and sustaining Arcadian Day School.  


Ms. Jessica Headley

Teacher, bio to follow



Ms. Arielle Mason, M. Ed

Substitute Teacher


Hi there, my name is Arielle Mason and I was born and raised here in Phoenix, AZ. I graduated from Arizona StateUniversity in 2012 with my bachelors in Art Studies and after hearing wonderful things about the Early Childhood Education Master’s Program at ASU, I decided to follow in my family’s footsteps and pursue a career in education through the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. 

I believe in teaching to the whole child and fostering the unique talents and learning needs of each individual student. I am devoted to ensuring that my students are in a comfortable learning environment where creativity is encouraged and students feel free to express themselves in any way they choose. I believe creating a loving foundation early on in a child’s education is crucial to developing a motivated student with a love for learning and school!

Previous to working at Arcadian Day School I ran my own at home preschool where I encouraged a garden based curriculum. With this curriculum the core skills of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies were all taught by using nature as an educational tool. Using nature as an influence has always inspired me as a teacher and I am so excited to be working in a school that recognizes these important learning experiences.

At home I am blessed with a loving partner and our beautiful young daughter who encourages me to live greeting each day with a smile and to appreciate the little things that often go overlooked in our busy lives. In our free time we enjoy hiking with our two big retrievers, making art, and spending time as a family.