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About Us

Core Values

  1. Power-with = Everyone’s needs matter.

  2. We center connection and kindness.

  3. We appreciate uniqueness and differences.

  4. We are consent-based, and honor boundaries. 

  5. We repair relationships and enemy images.

  6. We strive to overcome limiting beliefs.

  7. Gratitude keeps us centered and grounded. 

  8. Learning is intrinsic, lifelong, and always happening.

  9. Agile agreements are our community’s glue.

Our Campus

Our program takes place at our campus located close to Bent Creek on three beautiful acres of terraced fields, trees, creek, and small ponds. We have set up multiple indoor and outdoor spaces for the variety of activities that take place every day: an open workshop for woodworking and maker/tinkering space, an aerial gym, flexible classroom spaces, art space, movement space, a music building, a kitchen, hangout spaces with couches, a field for soccer and field games, a tree house, large outdoor decks, and chill spaces with hammocks. We also have a large collection of books, board games, musical instruments, science kits, and loose parts for creating endless imaginary play.

What We Believe

1. Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.

  • We don’t follow an externally imposed curriculum, give grades, or expect physical/social/intellectual/spiritual development to happen at the same time or in the same way across multiple children.

  • People know their needs, and have the ability to learn how to get their needs met. 

  • Intrinsic motivation (in a rich environment) allows us to learn what we need when we need it.

2. People learn best when they make their own decisions. Children are people.

  • Can you learn good decision making if you’re not allowed to make your own decisions? Can you learn to stay firm when the heart rings true if you’re not able to set boundaries or consent to the learning? We’re always influencing our kids. But when an adult in our school expresses a preference, it doesn’t come from a place of authority, but rather from an authentic connection with the kids, which allows them to navigate that influence in an honoring way that supports them making better decisions.

  • When we maximize opportunities to make decisions within a safe container, children experience how to go for what they want and risk mistakes, co-creating how they want to learn, how to resolve conflicts, and in the process, find out who they are.

3. People learn more from the environment/culture they are immersed in than from the content they are taught.

  • As facilitators, we recognize that young people learn from who we are in the world, how we make decisions, how we resolve conflicts, how we respond to our own needs and the needs of others, how we create the life we want to live. Information is easy to get, content is easy to get. What kids learn more than what we say is how we say it and what we do.

  • The implicit lessons of the environment are the ones that stay with us. In most other educational spaces, the cultural message is passivity and compliance over proactivity. It's often about being OK with non-consent, fearing mistakes, power-over versus power-with. We, on the other hand, create an environment where authentic connection flourishes, where life can be whatever you want it to be, and where there are infinite possibilities to create and prosper. We model and emphasize living a joyful life right now, instead of waiting for a hypothetical one in the future.

What We Practice

1. Building self-awareness and collaborative awareness.

  • Conflict resolution tools, and positive and compassionate communication practices such as power-with (an upgraded, de-colonized version of Non-Violent Communication (NVC)).

  • Culture and tools for creating connection to ourselves: self-calming, reflection, meditation.

  • Whole person growth: physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual.​​​

2. Creating a respectful, supportive, inclusive environment.

  • Risk is encouraged, failure is OK.


  • Minimum structure for maximum support.


  • Honoring the diversity in ideas and people across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.


  • Parents are always welcome to hang out, share their passions, and be part of our day.

  • Providing opportunities for kids to be of service to their community, to do real work and make real contributions.​

3. Designing a built environment that creates opportunities for self-directed play.

  • Lots of outdoor spaces that cater to different interests.

  • Tinkering/maker/art space with real tools.

  • Music space.

  • Quiet comfortable space for reading, thinking, etc.

  • Science and technology space.

  • Costume and stage area.

4. Deepening community connections.

  • Playful activities, skill-shares, and service projects that create kid/grown-up connections.

  • Facilitated heart-opening and connecting practices offered regularly to families and the broader community.

  • Parent support groups and workshops for sharing skills, giving empathy, parenting inspiration, relationship coaching, and book/movie discussions.​​

  • A strong commitment to transparency and peaceful, transformative conflict resolution.



Keli Bryan co-founded ZigZag in 2015. Her dream and mission has been to create a space for children to thrive, to be themselves, to discover and pursue what inspires them and gives them fulfillment. She loves playing with kids and learning more about everything they are into. She loves being a resource for kids and teens as they pursue their own goals.

Keli's professional background includes work as an elementary Art teacher, and later as a high school Biology, Art, and English teacher. She has been a consultant to school districts in NJ to implement service-learning and social-emotional learning programs. She has worked as a school psychology researcher, and taught intro level statistics and psychology classes at Rutgers University. She has also been a parenting coach and workshop facilitator for topics such as compassionate communication with children, play-based learning, peaceful parenting, self-directed education, and power-with relationships.


Keli has a Masters in Education and a Masters in Clinical/Community Psychology. Since moving to Asheville 9 years ago, she co-founded Asheville Adventure Play, a group that offers free child-led play events to the community, and then ZigZag ALC. More recently, she completed a coding bootcamp and has been teaching kids and teens to code online and at ZigZag.


Hany Nagib co-founded ZigZag in 2015. He's big on power-with liberation, a practice centered around the simple idea that everyone's needs truly matter. He's in the business of creating a New Culture wherever he goes, to replace the current dominance/power-over culture we live in. He is a facilitator of all things that help people connect more deeply to this work, and to each other - from working with kids, to coaching parents, to mediating conflicts, and leading workshops.

Hany has a passion for kids of all ages, and loves spending time playing, sharing curiosities, and facilitating experiences. Inspired by his own kids, he co-started ZigZag based on principles of kindness, respect for children's autonomy, and the joy of gentle non-coercive guidance.


Hany is trained in Agile Learning, Non-Violent Communication, facilitation, and community mediation. He previously taught high school classes in Racial Justice, Compassionate Communication, and Debate. He holds a Masters in Computer Science, and had a prior life as a Director and IT Executive at AT&T, Lucent Technologies, and Merck.


Chelsey Jones has a passion for seeing children live and grow freely. It’s important for her that every child sees their value and importance in the world. She loves meeting kids where they are, and helping them get where they want to be.

She likes nature, family adventures, yoga, tea, coffee, eating to nourish, cyclical living, making simple things into sacred ritual, finding the magic, the sun, the ocean, house plants, baths, meditation, hiking, painting, and seeing people find their joy. 

Chelsey has worked with kids for over 15 years in various capacities, including babysitting, nannying, and teaching. She co-founded an Agile Learning Community in Georgia, and found this model to be the perfect fit for her and her family in liberating children. She found ZigZag when she moved to Asheville, and feels totally at home facilitating there.


Matthew Colombo came to ZigZag in 2022 after a year of zigzaging through the American Southwest and the inner landscapes of Soul Canyon. A friend recommended he come to ZigZag, and he never left! Matthew shared his skills of basket weaving, friction fire making, drumming, improvisational singing, and animal processing/hide tanning. He continued to show up because he wanted to and because people kept asking, "will you be here next week?"

He holds and navigates space for kids to explore their own paths and directions, not pretending that he knows how it is done. At ZigZag he continues to be more himself, so as to invite others into their genuine greatness, and everything else that they are. ZigZag is one of the places that he can do his work in the world and the world can do its work on him.

Matthew enjoys singing and making music, growing/preparing food, writing, practicing acrobatics and improvising life. He has had former lives dwelling in a wigwam for one year, as a Scientist and Organizational Development Specialist at the Environmental Protection Agency, and a University researcher studying mercury pollution.


Anna Pleskow is an artist, facilitator, and mediator, Through work and solo travel, she has experienced and admired many different ways of living. Working at an ALC in New Orleans was life changing for her.  As a young kid, Anna had trouble focusing in school, but could spend hours and hours being creative in her free time. Being part of an ALC was the first time she found a space where young people's interests were put first and celebrated.

Anna loves supporting young people by following their lead and noticing what uniquely sparks their curiosity and excitement. 

Rohini headshot_edited.jpg

Rohini Townsend has a varied background that spans everything from Big Pharma and Big Tech, to nonprofit ownership and advocacy, to working with Indianapolis Public Schools. Currently, outside of ZigZag, she has a small business which offers counseling, coaching and entrepreneurial consulting. Additionally, she's multicultural (Jamaican, British, American), a writer, visual artist, instrumentalist, crafter and intuitive. 

Rohini is neurodivergent, and has been unschooling her neurodivergent son for four years. Her family of six operates on communication, consent, autonomy and authenticity, which made her find ZigZag to be a perfect fit.

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