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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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I just joined C&NN Connect and am thrilled to see this discussion and now to join in!  I am an educator who, most recently, was the principal of a public elementary school.  I have spent the last year raising my one-year-old daughter and reading about nature, play and early childhood.  My husband and I believe so strongly that children NEED nature and unstructured play to develop that we too want to start an outdoor preschool in the forest school tradition. We plan to open in Fall, 2013 (when Maeve is 3) and serve 3, 4 and 5 year olds.  Now, we are putting a business plan together for the school and are just about ready to take the business plan to local groups in search of space, partnership and support.  In October, I am also going to London to do a week-long intensive forest school leader training with Bridgewater College folks.   I would love to connect with people who are doing this great work already or who are, like us, in the process of trying to get it started.  If you are running a forest school and are willing to chat with me (via email, skype, phone), please let me know!  If you know folks who are doing this work who you think would be willing to connect, please also let me know.  

I have found the research on C&NN both compelling and helpful in setting up a plan.  In case folks don't know about it, I also really found Sara Knight's book, Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years (http://www.amazon.com/Forest-Schools-Outdoor-Learning-Early/dp/1847...) really helpful both for my own understanding and as a simple, well researched look at forest schools that I can offer those who are not yet "sold" on the idea.  I just noticed that she has a new book that looks great, entitled Risk and Adventure in Early Years Outdoor Play: Learning from Forest Schools (http://www.amazon.com/Risk-Adventure-Early-Years-Outdoor/dp/1849206...)

 

Thanks!  This is most exciting!

I am in love with the Secret Garden Nursery school.  A couple of years ago I wanted to create a forest school like this and came up against the state and their regulations there.  I did create a school eventually that was nature based / Reggio inspired school but I still felt constricted in many ways. 

After encountering the Secret Garden school I feel inspired again to really follow my dream.  I want to culitvate a space  like Cathy sometime in the near  future focusing on children with special needs connecting to nature. 

If anyone out there may know of how to write proposals that will not get the ECE regulators so hot and bothered please share your words of wisdom with me.

 

I am so excited that I found this discussion group and hope to talk with all of you soon!

 

 

Wow--so happy I found this forum! I have an unbridled passion for what I have found in Forest Kindergartens (nature preschools), and yes, the Secrete Garden is on my list of fav's as well :)  

I've been working over the summer to open one myself out of my own backyard (due to financial constraints but I'm determined to make do with what I have because nothing is going to stop me--this is too important for our children!) It's set to open in the next couple of weeks and I'm so excited! I live in Cedar Park, TX (a suburb of Austin) and it's called The Butterfly Garden (www.WaldorfButterflyGarden.com).

It's nice to find others here who feel the same way I do. I definitely would like to share ideas and whatever else might help each other out.

My main problem right now is to figure out how to make this affordable to the masses. My pricing is pretty high due to the need to have another teacher (I need to keep a low ratio due our frequent forays in the forest). Plus, I'm committed to only serving healthy, organic foods which can get pricey (we will be growing our own food in the gardens we'll create but since I'm still learning how to garden, it's going to take some time before this becomes our main source for food).

I've been brainstorming ways to bring in additional funds but in the meantime I am going forward with this. I think it's going to take time to get it perfectly the way I'd like, so I'm going to be figuring this out as I go along and will check back here from time to time to share what's working and what's not working if it helps anyone. 

Looking forward!

I'm loving this conversation! We have play-based programs that we bring into schools, communities and home-schooling programs. Derived from our eco-educational series, Let's Go Chipper Into the Great Outdoors,  it's turnkey and offers a lot of ideas to excite children into playing, exploring and conversing. It's pretty magical reading stories then role playing ...within a few minutes children will just go with the activity. You can create many experiences even is small spaces - and on small budgets. We also take nature walks then follow up with an art-based activity. Reinforcing the learning in numerous, multi-sensory ways helps children emobdy the lesson and grow in a more positive way.

 

We are currently updating our core curriculum kit and if anyone would want to test drive it I would love to have feedback. www.letsgochipper.com and on Facebook.

 

Cheers,

Stephanie

connect@letsgochipper.com

Hi Janine~ It's so great to hear your enthusiasm and I'm with you! I co direct and teach at an environmental preschool on forest service land, we have 10 aches of mountain woods to explore. As far as getting funding I'm wondering if you have filed a 501 c3 application to become a nonprofit? (Check out Legal Zoom on line for the application if you haven't already.) A lot of communities will donate to non profits, for example our thrift shop supports a non profit each month with their proceeds, it's not huge money but it's a simple great start. Then you can start looking at bigger places, education and environment are very worthy causes and because you are a new organization you might find some sources of income. If you want to reach the masses you could incorporate older siblings for after school programs, or check with local schools, it might have to start out being donated until you get some feedback. Just a few thoughts, but I'm so thrilled for you and know you will succeed on you drive alone!

At www.wildwoodschool.org (we're re doing our website, but it gives you an idea) I'd be happy to give you any ideas. We don't have a curriculum kit like Let's Go Chipper (Which sounds like a great resource!) but I'm happy to talk to you, we also have a grow dome but because of our severe winters our growing season is short. But there are some great starter foods that are quick and fun. Best of luck and keep us posted!

Janine Carpenter said:

Wow--so happy I found this forum! I have an unbridled passion for what I have found in Forest Kindergartens (nature preschools), and yes, the Secrete Garden is on my list of fav's as well :)  

I've been working over the summer to open one myself out of my own backyard (due to financial constraints but I'm determined to make do with what I have because nothing is going to stop me--this is too important for our children!) It's set to open in the next couple of weeks and I'm so excited! I live in Cedar Park, TX (a suburb of Austin) and it's called The Butterfly Garden (www.WaldorfButterflyGarden.com).

It's nice to find others here who feel the same way I do. I definitely would like to share ideas and whatever else might help each other out.

My main problem right now is to figure out how to make this affordable to the masses. My pricing is pretty high due to the need to have another teacher (I need to keep a low ratio due our frequent forays in the forest). Plus, I'm committed to only serving healthy, organic foods which can get pricey (we will be growing our own food in the gardens we'll create but since I'm still learning how to garden, it's going to take some time before this becomes our main source for food).

I've been brainstorming ways to bring in additional funds but in the meantime I am going forward with this. I think it's going to take time to get it perfectly the way I'd like, so I'm going to be figuring this out as I go along and will check back here from time to time to share what's working and what's not working if it helps anyone. 

Looking forward!

This sounds like an awesome idea. I've wondered on several occasions how to reach current child care operations to get them on board with getting the kids outside more and what you have developed sounds very promising! 

Stephanie Rach-Wilson said:

I'm loving this conversation! We have play-based programs that we bring into schools, communities and home-schooling programs. Derived from our eco-educational series, Let's Go Chipper Into the Great Outdoors,  it's turnkey and offers a lot of ideas to excite children into playing, exploring and conversing. It's pretty magical reading stories then role playing ...within a few minutes children will just go with the activity. You can create many experiences even is small spaces - and on small budgets. We also take nature walks then follow up with an art-based activity. Reinforcing the learning in numerous, multi-sensory ways helps children emobdy the lesson and grow in a more positive way.

 

We are currently updating our core curriculum kit and if anyone would want to test drive it I would love to have feedback. www.letsgochipper.com and on Facebook.

 

Cheers,

Stephanie

connect@letsgochipper.com

No, I haven't filed a 501 c3 yet. I do plan to become a non-profit and have gone as far as picking up a book at my local book store on creating a non-profit but it began to get so detailed and complicated that I put it down and just made a mental note to come back to that when I can devote my full-time attention to it.

Thanks for the tip on Legal Zoom and I also spoke with a friend who is about to start a non-profit herself and she told me that I could go ahead and claim non-profit status even before it's awarded as long as I'm pursuing it. This is all word-of-mouth legal advice of course, so I'm not planning on doing that until I know for sure. I'm thinking about meeting with a SCORE counselor to see if they can offer any help with it all (SCORE counselors offer free help for small businesses, I think every city has one). 

Anyway, lots to do--good thing I'm so passionate about it, really puts a fire in my belly!

Christina (Tina) Person said:

Hi Janine~ It's so great to hear your enthusiasm and I'm with you! I co direct and teach at an environmental preschool on forest service land, we have 10 aches of mountain woods to explore. As far as getting funding I'm wondering if you have filed a 501 c3 application to become a nonprofit? (Check out Legal Zoom on line for the application if you haven't already.) A lot of communities will donate to non profits, for example our thrift shop supports a non profit each month with their proceeds, it's not huge money but it's a simple great start. Then you can start looking at bigger places, education and environment are very worthy causes and because you are a new organization you might find some sources of income. If you want to reach the masses you could incorporate older siblings for after school programs, or check with local schools, it might have to start out being donated until you get some feedback. Just a few thoughts, but I'm so thrilled for you and know you will succeed on you drive alone!

At www.wildwoodschool.org (we're re doing our website, but it gives you an idea) I'd be happy to give you any ideas. We don't have a curriculum kit like Let's Go Chipper (Which sounds like a great resource!) but I'm happy to talk to you, we also have a grow dome but because of our severe winters our growing season is short. But there are some great starter foods that are quick and fun. Best of luck and keep us posted!

Janine Carpenter said:

Wow--so happy I found this forum! I have an unbridled passion for what I have found in Forest Kindergartens (nature preschools), and yes, the Secrete Garden is on my list of fav's as well :)  

I've been working over the summer to open one myself out of my own backyard (due to financial constraints but I'm determined to make do with what I have because nothing is going to stop me--this is too important for our children!) It's set to open in the next couple of weeks and I'm so excited! I live in Cedar Park, TX (a suburb of Austin) and it's called The Butterfly Garden (www.WaldorfButterflyGarden.com).

It's nice to find others here who feel the same way I do. I definitely would like to share ideas and whatever else might help each other out.

My main problem right now is to figure out how to make this affordable to the masses. My pricing is pretty high due to the need to have another teacher (I need to keep a low ratio due our frequent forays in the forest). Plus, I'm committed to only serving healthy, organic foods which can get pricey (we will be growing our own food in the gardens we'll create but since I'm still learning how to garden, it's going to take some time before this becomes our main source for food).

I've been brainstorming ways to bring in additional funds but in the meantime I am going forward with this. I think it's going to take time to get it perfectly the way I'd like, so I'm going to be figuring this out as I go along and will check back here from time to time to share what's working and what's not working if it helps anyone. 

Looking forward!

WELCOME, Welcome, welcome!  I followed Dodge Preschool and Schlitz Audubon Preschool for a couple of years wishing to do this.  I met Ken Finch from Green Hearts Inc. 6 or 7 years ago at an ANCA (Association of Nature Center Administrators) conference. http://www.natctr.org/  ANCA can be found on Linked in too.  I am not sure if you have to join but it is a reasonable price to join.  They talk ALOT about nature play.  My blog is www.playinnature.com   should you want to check us out. My twitter name is play_in_nature and on Facebook we are Pilcher Park Little Sprouts.   I haven't had much time to write lately due to grant writing obligations for the Joliet Park District for which I work.  I LOVE to talk about kids n nature and I have an afterschool program that serves 125 kids in the 4th grade that they come out to JUST PLAY!  They also have an organic garden but mostly they climb trees and play in the creek. 

We are NOT a certified preschool because we are part of a Park District.  The laws are a bit different in that if we cut 15 minutes per day we can call it a park district program that meets 2, 3 or even 5 days per week.   This year we are nearly full in the mornings and we were able to get enough children to do 2 afternoons per week. 

Feel free to email me or my preschool director Cathy Rehr anytime with questions.  I will try to post more frequently on this an the blog.  dgreene@jolietpark.org   sprouts@jolietpark.org

Would love to hear the progress on your school...can you post an update?

Hi, Debbie (and all)!  

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you, I've been unbelievably busy with The Butterfly Garden (our school) and with a fundraiser I've created for the school (I don't know if you remember but our school is free, so I've created a fundraiser to generate the funds we need. It's still in the "beta" version so I'll know by the end of the month if it's a viable idea or not).

As far as the progress of our school...so much going on! You might recall our school is located in my backyard, which backs up to what is referred to as a "greenbelt" here in the Austin area (a forested piece of land, usually for public use).

We finally opened our doors (or back gate!) in February after getting the go-ahead from licensing (we're licensed by the state) and will close down operations at the end of this month for the summer. This is just to allow us to move our school onto it's own property. I keep saying "we" and "us" because I found someone to partner with me in this huge endeavor. She's awesome (she's a degreed teacher and also an artist with another degree in Art). We're in the middle of putting a business plan together and locating another property for the school and all the while running the school, so--we've been busy! (We've actually just found the perfect place but need to work out an agreement with the owner now.)

Right now the school is running as a hybrid between a nature preschool and a forest kindergarten. In the fall, we'll separate it into three programs: a full-time Nature Preschool for those who need a M-F all-day option, with the majority of the day spent outdoors; a part-time Forest Kindergarten, M-Th from 9a.m.-1:00p.m. with 1, 2, 3, and 4 day options, held exclusively outdoors with an hour spent on our property and the rest of the time in the forest; and Forest Playcare, drop-in hourly care spent mostly outdoors on our treed property. 

Once we move into our permanent location, The Nature Preschool and Forest Playcare will operate year-round, and the Forest Kindergarten on a semester basis: Aug-Dec, Jan-May, and possibly some type of summer program.

We've updated our website over the last month (http://www.waldorfbutterflygarden.com/) with more pictures if you want to go take a look. We've also added a Facebook link to the site (upper right corner). Yesterday I worked all day on the FB site and finally launched it last night--which was a lot of work (I'm not much of an online person)! On the FB site, I've created an album documenting our first few months of school with 80+ pictures, so go take a look if you'd like to get an idea of what we do all day. And *please* "like" our page to help us generate awareness on the importance of connecting children with nature and taking education outdoors!

I'll send an update with pictures when we get moved in to our new location...

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