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Being a naturalist goes beyond identification - it means being truly connected to the land and the animals that live there. It means noticing shifts and changes, paying attention to how plants are growing and how animals are moving. It means having a strong relationship with the outdoors and seeing yourself as a part of it all.

  • Local plant and animal study

  • Animal tracking

  • Bird Language

  • Ecology

  • Creative inquiry

  • Field guide exploration

  • Edible and medicinal plants

Naturalist Knowledge


Health and Wellbeing

Our goal is to help raise healthy and vibrant children who are excited about life. We believe nature is good for the body, mind, and spirit.
  • Outdoor exploration
  • Creative play
  • Hiking/swimming
  • Active games
  • Movement
  • Mindfulness
  • Healthy foods
  • Journaling
  • Stillness and reflection in nature
  • Sensory awareness activities 

Environmental Stewardship


We believe that the more children fall in love with nature, the more they will want to protect it as adults. Through role modeling, we support children to develop a strong sense of respect and appreciation for the outdoors. One of our group agreements is to respect the land and all that lives there.

  • Tending the land

  • Leaving no trace

  • Responsible fire keeping

  • Responsible plant harvest

  • Respecting all life

Nature Based Academics

Our outdoor preschool and kindergarten programs incorporate age-appropriate academics using nature as our classroom. Our teaching methods are inspired by a wide variety of teachers and ideologies. We have a flexible, inquiry-based facilitation style, and we follow the children's lead much of the time. Some teaching philosophies that are similar to ours are Montessori, Waldorf, and the Reggio Emilia Approach. 


Our curriculum is uniquely crafted using the following resources:

  • Blossom and Root

  • Exploring Nature with Children

  • Wild Math

  • Handwriting without Tears

  • Heggerty Phonics


Life Skills

Whether it’s building a fort out of tree limbs, starting a fire by friction, or simply sharing a story with the group during lunch, we empower children to follow their interests and overcome fears.

  • Outdoor Safety and Awareness

  • Survival Scenarios

  • Basic Orienteering

  • Mapping

  • Nature Based Skills and Crafts

    • Basket weaving

    • Fire by friction

    • Woodcarving

  • Art

  • Storytelling

  • Focus

  • Resilience

  • Music and song


Community Building

At Nature Connect, we work to build a supportive community where everyone feels that they belong and have something to contribute to each other. We aim to cultivate generosity and appreciation in all that we do. For any given activity, we may offer specific roles to be chosen by participants in order to contribute towards a shared goal. We encourage participants to use their own skills to help others and to become leaders themselves. We believe a sense of contribution and responsibility is important.

  • Making meaningful friendships

  • Mentorship

  • Empowerment

  • Respect

  • Peaceful communication

  • Healthy conflict transformation

  • Learning how to be truly helpful

  • Appreciating each others' gifts

  • Listening

  • Honoring our differences

  • Multigenerational relationships


Our Vision

Our vision is that the children develop a strong love and respect for themselves, each other and all life, so they grow into empowered, compassionate leaders who make a difference in their communities. 

We want the children to feel fully alive and curious about the world in which we live. We want them to laugh, play, get dirty, make wonderful friends and be excited to learn!

At Nature Connect, we aim to serve a diverse community and bring together children from all walks of life. We also think it is important to involve many generations in this work of nature connection, and we encourage our families to learn and play alongside the children.

Our Curriculum​ and Teaching Philosophies

At Nature Connect, our goal is to support the children to: 

  • love learning and going to school

  • study our local ecosystem

  • develop a strong academic foundation

  • cultivate an appreciation and respect for each other and the natural world

  • be kind, responsible, and generous members of the community

  • be resilient and realize their capabilities

  • get curious and ask questions

  • play, adventure, get dirty, and thoroughly enjoy the outdoors

Our teaching methods are inspired by a wide variety of teachers and ideologies. We have a flexible inquiry-based facilitation style, and we follow the children's lead much of the time. Some teaching philosophies that are similar to ours are Montessori, Waldorf, and the Reggio Emilia Approach.


At Nature Connect we follow the 8 Shields Model of mentoring. We introduce concepts through our flow of the day, which is designed to work with the natural inclinations and energies of the children and natural environment. We follow what sparks connection and excitement for the children. Some days we follow the planned curriculum and on other days, we throw our "plan" out the window and follow the animal tracks we found after opening circle. We believe that children learn the most when they have a "spark in their eye" and are enthusiastic about something they discovered in nature. We ask them questions and study alongside them to deepen their curiosity and knowledge about the nature subject at hand.

Amidst this ebb and flow of learning and connection, we have specific skills, knowledge and ways of being that we try to impart to the children. Our academic year is broken up into different themes based upon the season. Each of these themes asks participants to look at the world in a different way. How does that tree fit into this ecosystem? What plants does that bird rely on for food? What would happen if the fox and coyote weren't here? What can we learn from the plants and animals around us and why is important that we learn these things at all? Our programs are designed to facilitate a love of learning and burning curiosity in people of all ages. 

We are incredibly grateful to our teachers and mentors in this work. There are many people that we would like to acknowledge, and this list in no way encompasses them all. Nevertheless, we want to thank these mentors whose teachings we carry with us in our work with Nature Connect.

Tom Hutchings, father of Brinkley Hutchings (Nature Connect's founder) 

Wendolyn Bird, Tender Tracks Nature Preschool

Lauren Hage, Dave Hage, and Will Scott at Weaving Earth Center for Relational Education

Catherine and Jesse Wiens, Play in the Wild!

Maria Nemeth, Academy for Coaching Excellence

Jon Young, Tom Brown and 8 Shields community, including the authors of Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods

Lorene Wapotich, founder of Feet on the Earth

Mia Andler, Vilda Foundation

Curriculum & Philosophies

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