A letter from our founder: 

If you’re like me, you’ve watched your child get stuck, frustrated, or be bored and go unchallenged in traditional schools. 

When my son was in 3rd grade, he’d leave his book behind in the car. He’d explain, “I never get to choose what I read at school, and at recess when I could read, I don’t want to because it’s the only 30 minutes of my day I get to run around and play!” Later, as a 6th grader, I’d watch him ace a math test, only to be assigned massive amounts of new homework on the same subject (one he’d already mastered!). He was wasting energy – he knew it, and I knew it. But with the rigid schedules, standardization, and the structures of traditional education, there wasn’t a truly better option for our kids here in the triangle.

Then, a few years ago, my husband and I discovered the concept of smaller innovative and cutting edge schools – often called “micro schools”-  and became inspired to create our own: The Studio School. The framework of a micro school typically just means the school stays smaller than 150 total students.  We designed our school to empower learners to work independently on core skills (reading, writing, math) and give them rich opportunities to do real-world project work collaboratively. We’ve made sure to allow children the autonomy they need to thrive (so kids can go to the bathroom when they need to, stretch their legs when needed, grab a snack, etc.). 

And more than anything, we’ve made it possible for students to discover and master the critical skills they’ll need for the adventure of fulfilling their greatest potential in the years that lie ahead. Because the reality is that most jobs that our children will undertake haven’t been invented yet, so notebook checks and testing are a waste of time in truly preparing an elementary student for reaching their highest calling through their education and beyond.


Driven by our years of success with Durham’s Our PlayHouse Preschool, we officially launched The Studio School of Durham in 2017. In embracing the concept of a micro school and our own spirit of adventure, we knew that our child could reach for so much more in the right environment. And we know your child can, too. 

So if you’re ready for a new, engaging approach to independent school education and to give your child every opportunity to discover and realize their potential – we’d love to welcome you to The Studio School.  

Danielle Sunde – Founder, The Studio School of Durham

Danielle is also the founder of Our PlayHouse Preschool, which has served over 350 families across the NC Triangle since 2008.

Centrally located in Durham, NC, Our PlayHouse is a dynamic, individualized and hands-on accredited educational program for children 18 months to 5 years of age. It’s known for its low student to teacher ratios, flexible scheduling, rich indoor and outdoor learning experiences, and child-led, “Reggio-Emilia” inspired education. Learn more at ourplayhousepreschool.com.



It’s time that your child had a relevant, modern education that didn’t just teach them stale facts and figures. With low student to teacher ratios, our students learn “how to learn” and push themselves forward through self-paced, significant project-based learning. An individualized approach to developing core skills of reading, writing, and math assure they are always gaining new knowledge. We model and instill values and strong character, and also allow students to have freedom and agency over their learning to foster their own growth mindsets and perspectives. In our mixed age environment across grades, students discover how to engage and form meaningful relationships with their fellow students of many ages and their teachers. By providing students with double the outdoors time of most schools, we’re able to increase and maximize their levels of engagement and focus while learning throughout the day. 

Across these kinds of rich experiences, students create real-world deliverables in our beautiful indoor classrooms, a cutting-edge Design Lab, and inspiring art studio. On a daily basis, our students are given the creative opportunities and spaces to master critical thinking, problem solving skills, and a spirit of adventure about their own purpose and educational development.

At The Studio School of Durham we believe that school should be a place for critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and character building. We see children as competent individuals capable of guiding their own learning. To that end, we combine several educational approaches to encourage deep and lasting learning and academic growth.

our team



Ashley Champion is a Hillsborough, NC native who uses her years of experience in early childhood education in her work with our Lower Elementary learners. She received her formal educational training at Eastern Carolina University where she studied Elementary Education and received a concentration in Child Studies. Ashley is a firm believer in an integrated approach to learning, and applies this to her work with The Studio School. In addition to working in education, she is a wife, step-mother, learner, explorer and adventure seeker.