Forest School for Little Rangers (FSLR) is a new MPEC program that was launched in October 2016 and will run through the 2016/2017 school year. During this first year of its operation, FSLR is designed to serve around 400 3- and 4-year olds that attend the Colorado Preschool Program through Pueblo City Schools. The Colorado Preschool Program accepts children who have been identified as facing educational challenges due to family, economic, or developmental concerns (often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs).

Each class is scheduled to attend five separate 3-hour sessions over the school year. FSLR provides these youngsters with numerous opportunities to experience the wonders of Nature and the countless benefits to their physical and mental development that spending time in Nature provides. FSLR also has a parent education component. In collaboration with parent educators from Catholic Charities and Health Solutions, parents (or grandparents/ guardians) spend a portion of each day learning practical parenting tools and techniques that build healthy parent-child relationships and strong families. Parents will also learn how spending time in the natural world builds resilience in young children to help them overcome the impacts of adverse experiences and grow into healthy, happy, contributing members of the community.

There is a clear need in the Pueblo community for programs that provide our community’s young children with opportunities to benefit from first-hand experiences in the natural world. There is also a widespread need for our community to learn about ACEs and have access to programs that can effectively address the impacts of ACEs on the development of our children. The FSLR program contributes to Pueblo’s efforts towards becoming a trauma-informed community by creatively combining activities in and exposure to Nature with established parenting classes as an effective vehicle in promoting the positive development and health of the Pueblo’s young children. The program will also provide families with valuable tools in building resilience in their young children to help counter the harmful impacts of ACEs. Whether a child has experienced ACEs or not, all children and their parents / guardians participating in the FSLR program will benefit from the program. FSLR can very well serve as a model program for addressing the harmful impacts of ACEs through experiences in the natural world.

Meet our Forest School Teachers

FSLR is being facilitated by two teachers who combined bring several decades of experience working with young children.

Debbie Wellen has worked in the early childhood field for the past 38 years.  “Miss” Debbie has been a licensed childcare provider in the state of Colorado in Canon City for 15 years and in Pueblo for 23 years, including being an Instructor at PCC teaching child-care classes.   She has always been passionate about getting the children in her care to play outside, growing and eating organic gardens, playing with Nature’s play dough (mud), spraying snow with water colors, free play and art.  Debbie enjoys spending time with her nine grand children, traveling, walking, bike riding, gardening, playing the auto harp and singing.  Her dream has always been to teach in an outdoor classroom setting and sharing nature with future earth keepers.  Debbie has worn many hats over the years and is now proud to be called, “Ranger Deb.”

Sheila Cover-Rydell graduated from Western State College with degrees in Elementary Education and Art Education. Sheila taught school for 27 years, 25 years in kindergarten and 2 years in 2nd grade. She loves teaching art enrichment classes to elementary school children. Sheila, who has lived in Colorado for 40 years, is a mother of three grown sons, a daughter-in-law and has one grandson. She loves hiking, being in the outdoors, traveling, walking her dog and doing art. Sheila is so excited about her new job working in Nature and sharing her love of Nature with Little Rangers.