Rooted and Free Nature School, first created with a vision of providing high-quality, nature-based, early childhood education, is preparing to open a preschool.
Founders of the school, Nate and Christie McKelvie, began offering educational opportunities at Camp Kirchenwald near Colebrook when the school opened its doors in Oct. 2020. Christie had the idea to start a nature-based school around 7 years ago.
“Utilizing the vast, thriving, forested ecosystem at Camp Kirchenwald, a learning environment is created that fosters deep and lasting connections with each other and the natural world,” Christie McKelvie, director and lead teacher, said. “This model is based on child-directed play and exploration, a model backed by a growing body of research that indicates the positive benefits to the whole child.”
The young students spend a lot of their time outside, as well as in a cabin filled with activities for all abilities and interests. They experience learning through loose parts exploration, creative games, and intentional activities that focus on growing both their minds and bodies.
“Some of the activities and lessons that the students learn include leaf lanterns, nature journaling, Andy Goldsworthy-inspired creations, handheld microscopes, snow volcanoes, snowball catapults, stream exploration, and nature hikes are just a few of the exciting activities students took part in this year,” McKelvie said. “In addition to our seasonal and theme-related activities, we always make sure there is time for free exploration and play in nature as well.”
Students aged three and a half through age 13 are accepted into the school. Currently, “Wild Wednesdays!” are offered in two separate age groups including PreK through second grade and third grade through sixth grade.
“These tech-free mornings provide a healthy dose of face-to-face peer interactions in a multi-sensory natural setting,” McKelvie said. “Programming focuses on nature exploration, creative play, and problem-solving centered around a daily theme. These enrichment offerings build real-world context for a wide range of science and STEM concepts that children will utilize throughout their educational journey.”
Rooted and Free plans to continue offering “Wild Wednesdays!” twice a month next school year.
The school currently has specific precautions in place to make sure students and staff stay safe this year during the pandemic. Each “Wild Wednesdays!” class is limited to 16 children. All children will have a mask to wear when using indoor bathrooms or when appropriate social distance can’t be maintained. The children are outside in the morning unless there is severe weather. Handwashing and hand sanitizing occur regularly and surfaces are sanitized. Parents and guardians must screen their children for COVID-19 symptoms before arriving at the school.
The school plans to offer its first nature preschool for the 2021/2022 school year. The preschool is designed for children ages three and a half through age five and the class sizes are limited to 8-12 students. Each class is led by at least two qualified teachers. More information regarding the preschool program can be found at rootedandfree.org/preschool.
The school year starts on Sept. 7, 2021, and runs through May 26, 2022.
“It has been such a joy to meet so many local families that recognize the value of learning naturally,” McKelvie said. “We are so thankful to those that have entrusted their children in our care during our first year and cannot wait to serve more families next school year.”
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