An outdoor-based Nature Preschool & Kindergarten serving the Pueblo area.

Have you heard about Nature Preschools & Kindergartens and wished that this kind of program was available in our area?

Are you looking for a program that combines the many benefits of fresh air, open space and Nature play with a progressive early childhood curriculum?

Then we have the program you’ve been looking for!

 

Why a Nature Preschool/Kindergarten?

There is a new movement underway in the field of early childhood education. With its roots in Europe, followed by their emergence in the Pacific Northwest and New England, Nature Preschools and Kindergartens (or Forest Preschools, Nature Kindergartens) are now found in many locations throughout the US.

The reasons for the Nature Preschools and Kindergartens are many. There is no denying the fact that the prevalence of various forms of mass-produced technology has impacted our society on many levels. One such impact is the amount of time that today’s children spend “plugged-in” to one form of electronic device or another. What is often lost through all this tech-driven time is spending time outdoors. This trend has many negative outcomes associated with it – poor physical health, increased prevalence of many diseases, mental health problems, and a lack of understanding of or interest in the natural environment, to name a few. These impacts are not limited to adults and older children. In fact, lives impaired by such an enmeshment with technological gadgetry often begin in early childhood.

Among the reasons for the Nature Preschool & Kindergarten movement is the desire to counter what is sometimes called the indoor-ification of early childhood. What comes along with indoor-ification – a preoccupation with academics and testing; over-fascination with and over-use of technology; less, or no time for play, recess, art and music; the increased use of worksheets…  is why Nature Schools are becoming more and more popular among parents and early childhood advocates.

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life…”    ~ Rachel Carson

 

CLICK HERE FOR BASIC INFORMATION

 

All young children ages 3 years 9 months thru 7 – girls, boys, big, small, tall, short, outgoing, shy – are welcome at Earthkeeper Nature School!

Earthkeeper Nature School curriculum centers on the emotional, social, physical, self-help and academic development of the child. We use Nature and the outdoors as the focus of our program, integrating Nature awareness, science, music, arts, mathematics, language arts, reading, and skill work into a vibrant curriculum. Through experience-based learning, we seek to help children gain confidence in themselves and a love for the natural world around them, supporting the strong excitement and zest for learning that is natural in the young child.

  • In order to begin to read and perform other academic tasks, the children must first gather meaning from the world and develop an awareness of concepts.
  • In order to gather meaning from the world, children must have many satisfying sensory and interactive experiences – they must touch, feel, smell, hear and see. Perceptual development follows. As children interpret their sensory experiences, their minds continue to develop and expand.
  • Utilizing both the Mountain Campus and the River Campus as our classrooms, children receive countless opportunities to experience the wonders of Nature in a diversity of natural habitats and communities.
  • Our wondrous mountain, river and prairie settings beg the children to explore and experience nature and animals at the doorstep.

The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out. ~ Bill Gates

 

Putting the Garden Back into Kindergarten

The original image of the kindergarten, the “children’s garden,” is fast eroding. It’s hard to see the original beauty of what kindergarten is supposed to be anymore. Children aren’t playing in the garden; instead, they’re ardently filling in bubbles on worksheets.

Many early childhood educators feel there’s a kindergarten crisis in America. The original emphasis on self-directed learning and constructive play is fast being replaced with hours of mandated reading instruction and an alienation from the outdoors. (See Washington Post article: You Won’t Believe These Kindergarten Schedules).

“My son Atticus just loves his Nature School. When I asked him what he loves so much about it, his response was, ‘Nature’”. ~ Kristin Brimhall, Earthkeeper Nature Preschool parent

 


“Learning outdoors is one of the best ways to create a positive and intimate bond with the natural world… They are learning all kinds of valuable principles about gravity, and texture, and shapes and colors and all the things you might expect to see in a preschool curriculum. They are just doing it outdoors and at their own pace.” ~ Erin Kenny

 

Earthkeeper Nature School’s educational philosophy is built on the belief shared by many influential progressive educators, including Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and Reggio Emilia, a belief that Nature should be play a primary role in early childhood education.

The curriculum is geared toward helping children develop habits of observation and discovery, questioning, listening and problem solving. Enveloped in an environment of fun where they feel loved and respected, they develop an awareness of the uniqueness of who they are and how to express their feelings. They learn that they are free to make choices; as long as they stay within the limits of consideration for people, things, and the natural world, they do not always have to conform. An open-ended program like ours prepares children to utilize their intellectual and creative abilities in future learning tasks, and in successfully relating to the natural world and to society.

 

 

“Our daughter talks about things she has learned during hikes. The scope of her understanding of nature has broadened greatly. We do a pretty good job as a family connecting to nature, but I am now realizing how much more our daughter is learning and connecting by attending Earthkeeper Nature Preschool.” ~ Brenda Burk

 

Mixed-Age Classes

Where in life do we strictly segregate people into one-year age groupings? Aside from traditional school models, segregating by age is hard to find anywhere else in the community. There are a number of progressively-minded schools that recognize the many benefits to the mixed-age classroom. Earthkeeper Nature School is one of them.

The mixed-age classroom is like a family: the older students nurture the younger ones and motivate them. Most human activities involve a cycle in which a beginner learns necessary skills, perfects them through use, and hones them through mentorship. The primary value of mixed-age programs is the flexibility they provide to students whose growth is a series of sudden spurts rather than a smooth, linear progression. By serving a range of students with a larger chronological-age span, the norm becomes a wide range of abilities rather than the expectation that everyone is at the same level.

Among several examples of schools that operate with mixed-age classrooms is Pueblo’s very own Connect School, which has won numerous awards for excellence and high student achievement. The Early Learning Institute in Palo Alto, California has three classrooms for preschoolers. Instead of putting three-year-olds in one, fours in another room, and fives in the last room, they put a mix of threes, fours, and fives in all three rooms.

Read more about the value of mixed-age educational environments: 10th Street Preschool; 4 Benefits of Mixed Age Groups in the Montessori Environment.

 

“Will my child be ready for school?”

A common question when a parent is considering enrolling their child in a Nature Preschool is, “Will my child be ready for school?” The answer is, “Absolutely!”

Earthkeeper Nature School believes that skills such as initiative, persistence, invention, problem-solving – skills that are listed in childhood learning standards across the country – are the foundations of future success, in academics as well as in life. We also believe that self-directed outdoor play provides numerous opportunities for developing these skills.

 

What’s more important in early childhood education, learning your letters or learning to overcome your fear of tromping through a deep puddle? Or does learning to overcome your fear create a foundation for learning letters? From a report titled Crisis in the Kindergarten by the nonprofit Alliance for Childhood:

Long-term research casts doubt on the assumption that starting earlier on the teaching of phonics and other discrete skills leads to better results. For example, most of the play-based kindergartens in Germany were changed into centers for cognitive achievement during a wave of educational “reform” in the 1970s. But research comparing 50 play-based classes with 50 early-learning centers found that by age ten the children who had played excelled over the others in a host of ways. They were more advanced in reading and mathematics and they were better adjusted socially and emotionally in school. They excelled in creativity and intelligence, oral expression, and “industry.”  As a result of this study German kindergartens returned to being play-based again.

Initial findings and studies in Europe suggest that children who go to nature preschools and kindergartens are just as well prepared for kindergarten and first grade as their compatriots in more traditional learning programs. But these nature programming students are also developing persistence, stick-to-it-ive-ness, and collaboration, and they’re more physically active. In short, they’re just as smart but perhaps have more grit – more self-reliance, persistence, ability to stay on task. And grit, we’re learning, may be a better predictor of school success that academic test scores (Duckworth and Eskreis-Winkler 2013). ~ David Sobel

 

 

Earthkeeper Nature School Staff are educated and experienced in early childhood education and environmental education. Each teacher brings his or her own expertise and energy to help provide a high-quality, Nature-based early childhood program. We understand that preschoolers thrive on guidance from, as well as interaction with their caretakers. Response to their conversation and actions helps them develop language skills as well as increase their understanding of the world.

The heart of Earthkeeper Nature School is the natural world. Hence, we strive to spend the majority of our time outdoors at both the Mountain Park and the River Campus. Each campus also has an indoor classroom that will be utilized in the event of adverse outdoor conditions (e.g. extreme cold) that necessitate the need to be indoors.

 

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” ~ Thomas Berry

Recent research corroborates that Nature Preschools & Kindergartens provide the ideal setting for the healthy development of the young child:

  • Increasing evidence suggests that access to nature and green space provides children with a myriad of cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits, such as increased ability to concentrate, improved academic performance, reduced stress and aggression levels, and reduced risk of obesity. (Faber Taylor & Kuo, 2006; Kellert, 2005, Lieberman & Hoody, 1998; Louv, 2007; Wells & Evans, 2003)
  • Research indicates that nature buffers the impact of life stress on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits. Nature exposure is indeed a protective factor, contributing to the resilience of children. Conversely, if nature is lacking in the lives of children, it is just one more strike against children, especially those who already face tremendous disadvantages. (Wells, N., & Evans, G., 2003)
  • Statistically significant relationships were found between the use of urban open green spaces and self-reported experiences of stress – regardless of the informant’s age, sex and socio-economic status. The results suggest that the more often a person visits urban open green spaces, the less often he or she will report stress-related illnesses. (Grahn, U.A. Stigsdotter, 2004)
  • Studies found that children engage in more creative forms of play, and play more cooperatively, in the green areas than in paved areas of schoolyards. (Bell and Dyment, 2006)
  • Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development. (Kellert, 2005).
  • Studies indicate that proximity to, views of, and exposure to natural settings increases children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities. (Wells, 2000)
  • Outdoor-based activities for young children build resilience through heightened sensory awareness, high positive expectations, and a clear and developing understanding of one’s strengths relating to accomplishment. (Breslin, 2005)

  • Earthkeeper Nature School operates in both the Mountain Park Campus in Beulah and the River Campus in Pueblo.
  • Enrollment options for Nature Preschool or Kindergarten are two half-days/week (Mon/Wed morning, Mon/Wed afternoon, Tues/Thurs morning, or Tues/Thurs afternoon) or four half-days/week (Mon thru Thurs, mornings, or Mon thru Thurs afternoons).
  • Daily class times: Morning classes run from 8:15 – 11:15. Afternoon classes run from 12:30 – 3:30.
  • The vast majority of time is spent outdoors, with indoor spaces available when weather conditions warrant.
  • We are licensed under the Colorado Department of Human Services.
  • Ages accepted: Upper 3 – 7. Birthday cutoff date for turning age 4 is November 12, and will be approached flexibly on a case-by-case basis.
  • Round-trip transportation to Beulah available.

 

COST

  • The annual tuition for attending the 2-half days/week preschool or the 2-half days/week kindergarten is $1850, normally broken up into 10 monthly payments of $185. The annual tuition for attending the 4-half days/week preschool or the 4-half days/week kindergarten Is $3330, normally broken up into 10 monthly payments of $333.
  • Financial aid is available!
  • Earthkeeper Nature School classes for the 2019/2020 school year begin the week of August 12, 2019.
  • ENROLLMENTS NOW BEING TAKEN FOR THE 2019/2020 SCHOOL YEAR! To pre-register and save a spot, CLICK HERE!
  • E-mail Dave Van Manen or Tami Montoya (addresses below) to request an enrollment packet! Hard copies of Enrollment Packets are available at the Mountain Park and River Campus (Nature Center) offices.

For more information, please contact Dave Van Manen at mpec@hikeandlearn.org or Tami Montoya at tami@hikeandlearn.org.

Learn more about Nature Preschools/ Kindergartens:

The Cognitive Benefits of Kindergarten in the Forest Atlantic article on a Forest Kindergarten in Finland.

Preschool Without Walls A New York Times article on a Seattle area Forest Preschool.

Reading the Landscape: Early Literacy in the Outdoor Classroom Article on how Nature-based early childhood education better prepares children for future academic success.

 

“The young child is biologically programmed to develop in concert with the natural world.”  ~ David Sobel

 

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

We at Earthkeeper Nature School do not want a lack of financial resources to be the reason why a family does not send their child to our school. Hence, we will do our very best to provide the financial assistance needed so your child can attend. If you look at our tuition price and think “I can’t afford that” then we suggest you apply for financial aid (details on applying will be available at time of enrollment).

For more information, please contact Dave Van Manen at mpec@hikeandlearn.org or Tami Montoya at tami@hikeandlearn.org.

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EARTHKEEPER NATURE SCHOOL INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS

These meetings are a great opportunity to learn more about the Earthkeeper Nature School, get your questions answered, and meet the folks who are creating the preschool.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SCHEDULE AN INFORMATIONAL MEETING FOR YOUR GROUP, CLUB, OR AT YOUR HOME FOR A GROUP OF FRIENDS, PLEASE CONTACT DAVE OR TAMI AT THE EMAIL ADDRESSES ABOVE!