We are just about to start our second year of our Little Sprouts nature based early learning center and I just wondered if any of you guys are doing this and if you have any BIG ideas for us to try! 

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Congratulations! You sound like the perfect Chipper Ambassadors. We visit schools with our mascot and hold storytime, stretch, and song classes along with crafts.


I would love to share ideas from natural crafts to creating meaningful connections with nature the minute you walk out the door.


I'm not sure what areas you are looking for as far as ideas go but here is what we were doing last week to much joy:

Storytime:  We read Break it Down with Bruce from the Let's Go Chipper, Into the Great Outdoors series and then went into stretch and "roll" play with the kids. The kids rolled into little balls then stretched out long like a Banana slug as we talked about the benefits Banana slugs have on the environemt:

1. They are nature's best composters - decompising and helping new trees grow

*So once we stretched long we thought about what we could grow into like a tree or flower which made us start to stand and stretch to the sky. Waving our arms back and forth we brought in the feeling of wind and then the sounds - inhale then long exhales, slowly.


It's in more details but the activity is a great transitioning exercise - the storytime excites conversation and movement and the ending exhales - like the wind - act as great relaxation breaths. The kids loved it.


We also worked on the word: metamorphisis and talked about caterpillars turning into butterflies. We made both out of recycled paper and toilet paper rolls - so much fun and the butterflies become a binocular when we went outside for adventures.


....anyhow this is an area I love so I'm happy to send through information directly or let me know if people want to see a presentation/pdf file to use.

Metamorphisis is a good word!  We do a BIG word of the week every week and use it as a basis for our in-class time.  Please send any ideas to crehr@jolietpark.org  also .  Thanks!

This is wonderful Debbie. Wishing you huge success. I run nature based art and craft classes for young children and have been inandated with requests for a nature based preschool. Seeing the change first hand is so encouraging for the future for both our children and the planet. I have just recently launched a new campaign -the "Let's Go Outside" Revolution-with a mission to change the way children spend their time. www.letsgooutsiderevolution.com

Preschools, elementary schools and high schools all play a vital role in reconnecting children with nature. Thank you for starting up a nature school- you are the revolution!!!

Wishing you a beautiful day, Marghanita.

It's a process.  I think we learned something new ourselves every day this year.  And here we are in May and we are almost full in our Tuesday and Thursday and Monday Wednesday and Friday morning classes and it looks like we will have an afternoon class this year.  In addition to that we do Nature Baby classes for 6 month-1 1/2  year olds,  3-5 year olds and a  2 year old class with mom and tot  and they are great feeder classes for the preschool.   We also don't focus on academics and the parents that are open to the idea that children learn naturally LOVE this method.  These children learn alot through free play and exploration.


I totally believe in free play and exploration and nature is a fabulous environment for that to flourish. I will be offering after school nature fun activities in the Fall but hope to have a forest preschool up and running early 2012.
Thank you so much for sharing, this is really exciting.



I got alot of funding for the after-school program in the beginning.  We are partners with the local hospital, Sodexo ( the food company that feeds them), Exxon Mobil, the local school district and the Illinois Extension Service.


The preschool makes money for my nature center but I was fortunate to have a building already in place I could do this.  It is the building cost that is the hardest to over come.

Hi Debbie, thanks for sharing. This is really interesting. I certainly have a lot of work still to do. This is really helpful, thank you. Wishing you a beautiful day. Marghanita

Hi Debbie, 

We have an Environmental Pre-school on 8 achers of Forest Serves land in Aspen Colorado. Our website is  <www. wildwoodschool.org> My dream is to get more organic, we do a lot, have a grow dome that enables us to gardening from April through Oct. which is huge. We snow show out our door but we also have a bus as part of our land lease to lessen our impact, so we are able to move around.  But I'd love to do an off shoot more like a forest school, maybe more what you do. We have a full day program from 8:30 to 4:00. I'd love to brainstorm and share any ideas!!

Thanks Tina


Thank you for starting this topic, Debbie. And thanks, all, for contributing.


Here's a terrific story about a Nature Pre-School in Scotland:


This story will probably interest many of you: Secret Garden, Forest pre-school in Scotland:


Thanks for sharing this Suz


The Secret Garden is a unique set up as it is quite nomadic and the focus is very child-centred and led. This means the children play. There are not structured activities (such as craft sessions, etc.) and staff are there to facilitate. As the article suggests, the staff recruitment process is tough and many do opt out as the approach challenges common assumptions and ways of working with young children. I know of outdoor play consultants who've found the set up quite an eye-opener. 


What this does mean is that this nursery is well worth watching. I think Cathy Bache is a true pioneer in what she is doing.

Thanks for your thoughts on this, Juliet. It's a fascinating school and it's garnered a lot of attention. I wonder if we can get Cathy to join C&NN Connect? Regardless, I'm sure we'll all keep talking about the Forest Schools trend and its applications. I appreciate your contributions, as always.

I absolutely love, love, love what they are doing at the Secret Garden. Cathy Bache is an inspiration. Had I still been living in Scotland and I would have loved to have been a member of staff.....dream job!!! Although this kind of nursery would not fit with everyone, we can all certainly work towards bringing some of the elements into our outdoor playgroups and nurseries.

It is so encouraging to see more and more forest schools popping up, whether they spend the entire time outdoors or just several hours, the main thing is that children are getting the opportunity to connect with nature and allow their imaginations to run wild in a natural and inspiring setting................how wonderful. Love it, love it, love it!!!


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