Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool Program
Wren’s Nest is a wilderness program for preschool-age kids. Students at Wren’s Nest learn by interacting with the natural world. Willowell is proud to partner with Common Ground Center in Starksboro to host Wren’s Nest. Wren’s Nest takes place on Mondays from 8:30 AM – 1 PM during the school year.
Wren’s Nest is a holistic, interdisciplinary, and sensory-based approach to learning, and a companion program to Willowell’s nationally-recognized outdoor high school program, the Walden Project. Wren’s Nest’s goal is to foster students’ independence and an initial understanding of their interconnectedness with the whole world. Kids come away with a deep level of comfort and love for the land we play and learn on. Above all, Wren’s Nest creates a space for children to cultivate their natural sense of awe and wonder. Each child’s interest guides the learning process.
“Our son loves his ‘Wren’s Nest Days’ and we are thrilled about them too! It’s so much more than education in nature. The children form relationships with respectful, gentle adults who demonstrate and share their passion and stewardship of our local natural world. I witness this relationship facilitating a healthy confidence in our child to approach the outside world with curious joy, sometimes being passionately silly and at times quietly absorbing and honoring his surroundings. These realistic experiences are shared with the children, not presented in a ‘kids’ version.’ Refreshingly, the children are encouraged to join in a human awakening of a natural history appreciation common for all ages. How lucky we are that their beginnings are rooted in such a healthy place that will continue to bud and grow through their life’s journey.“ -Julie Clark, Wren’s Nest mom
Kathryn McEachen, program director, is an experienced outdoor educator whose teaching style is flexible and creative, allowing her to adjust plans in the moment to suit the evolving needs of the students. Her curriculum depends less on rigid structure and more on independent exploration—allowing each child to engage with his or her natural environment through play and with the guidance of trained instructors. Mo Bissonnette, assistant teacher, has over 10 years of training in wilderness skills and has taught outdoor nature mentoring programs, classes, and camps all over Vermont.
Each student at Wren’s Nest is encouraged to push personal boundaries. For preschoolers, pushing boundaries may mean staying outside longer than they’re used to, or holding a bug in their hands; for some it may simply mean walking into the woods for the first time without mom and dad.
The program is seasonal, incorporating specific themes rooted in the changing bounty of the land. Areas of study include wild edibles, fire building, tracking, shelter building, sensory awareness, bird language, singing, movements and yoga, garden planting and harvesting, wetland walks, drawing, journal writing, clay work, nature sculpture, natural dyeing, indoor and outdoor cooking, scavenger hunts, storytelling, special guests, dancing, singing, and an age-appropriate end of year rite of passage.
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For more information, please contact Hannah Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Katie McEachen at email@example.com.