The Ridges Sanctuary

Preservation, Education, and Research

Prospective Families

We are now accepting applications for the second semester of the 2022/2023 school year!

Please call Katie Krouse, at 920-839-2802 x 101 to register your child.

Program fills quickly, Register now to hold your spot

Scholarship applications will go live in April 2022. Scholarship applications will be due by June 15th. Consider reserving your spot today to ensure your child has a spot in the program.

In a “Nature-Based Preschool,” nature is at the heart of the curriculum. Our child development goals are the same as any high quality preschool program, and we achieve these goals through nature-based experiences. Our practices reflect best practices in early childhood (as outlined by the National Association of the Education of Young Children and Wisconsin Models of Early Learning Standards) as well as best practices in Environmental Education (as outlined by North American Association of Environmental Education, Natural Start Alliance).

We find nature to be very hands-on, REAL, sensory-rich, and therefore perfect for inspiring young children’s engagement and play. This kind of play supports collaboration, language development, natural knowledge, balance and strength, problem-solving, creativity, risk-taking and resiliency, independence, and contentment. We are outside in almost all weather for the vast majority of every morning. We play outside, we hike outside, we have circle time outside, we eat snack outside, we do art outside.

We teach Emergent Curriculum. This means we plan activities based on seasonal cycles in nature, and based on children’s interests. For example, if the group sees and is interested in milkweed pods, we plan hikes to find them, we read books about them, we compare pods for ripeness, we count them, we measure them, we experiment with seed dispersion, we do art with them, we learn about their connections to other living things in their habitat. Language and early literacy and math skills are developed out in nature: we talk, read, and write about nature and we count, estimate, sort and measure in nature.

Your child will grow and develop skills needed to make a successful transition to kindergarten while making a lifelong connection to the natural world.

What is a day like?

  • We begin the day independently taking care of belongings, by putting water bottle and hat in our hiking packs, to be ready for the day.
  • We ease into the day with unstructured play that allows children to engage at their own pace.
  • We gather as a community circle and sing group nature songs and create rhythms that we share with each other – we sound so good when we do this together!
  • We listen to a story and share ideas about it. We use our language to communicate our own responses. Sometimes teachers record these ideas in print.
  • We take a bathroom/warming break, practicing our independence with our clothes.
  • We head off on a hike with our hiking packs on our backs, and our eyes and ears and nose open for noticing.
  • We stop at a Meadow or Sand dunes or Forest or Stream or Pine Grove for long, unstructured play. We use the nature tools and art tools and journal that are in our hiking packs and we put them away when we are finished.
  • We take pictures of things we do and make, we use language to tell about it, and teachers may record those ideas in print.
  • We have opportunities for counting, measuring, comparing, patterning, experimenting.
  • We put back on our hiking packs and head for the Red Pine Grove where we each nestle into our pine-needle-soft Sit Spots, alone, where we rest, observe, listen, draw, cut, connect with nature.
  • We come together to use our language to describe what we noticed during our Sit Spots.
  • We put back on our hiking packs and hike back singing about what “we had fun” doing in the forest.
  • We take care of our belongings by removing our hats and water bottles from our hiking packs so we can take them home – we are so independent and responsible!
  • Throughout the day, teachers document student learning and interests, in order to plan for the next session.