Chicago Botanic Garden Nature Preschool
Lake County is full of beautiful natural spaces and the preschool scene is changing to take advantage of that. If you have a child who would rather spend every waking minute in the fresh air, making mud pies and searching for bugs, then these nature-based preschools are for you.
This is the new kid on the preschool block. The Nature Preschool, located at the new Regenstein Learning Campus in Glencoe, is an amazing example of combining nature and learning. The center is filled with natural materials for kids to play with and explore. The classrooms are connected by a large outdoor classroom space and a mud kitchen. Kids spend 80-90 percent of class time outside, either in their own space or exploring the garden. The school offers classes (and half days) for children ages 3-4. Visit the open houses on Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 2-6:30 p.m. or on Saturday, Sept. 12 1-6 p.m to learn more.
This nature-based Montessori is located on a wooded 10-acre lot in Round Lake and was built from the ground up to meet the Montessori Principles. The school teaches a commitment to the environment to kids in preschool through eighth grade, and also offers parent-infant and homeschool classes. Children spend as much time outside as they do inside and will work in the school’s garden, go on nature hikes, study animals, practice beekeeping and help maintain the school’s apple trees. The natural playscape works their minds and bodies while they interact with their environment.
Da Vinci Waldorf in Wauconda is not a straight up nature-based program like the previously mentioned schools, but is a Waldorf School that has a focus on classical learning, the arts and the environment. The Waldorf approach to early childhood education is grounded in play and movement. Nature, creative play, baking, art and rich storytelling is at the core of the program. Celebrate autumn with the school at their Harvest Festival and see the campus, meet the teachers and enjoy fun activities on Oct.1, 1-5 p.m. Da Vinci Waldorf offers preschool through eighth grade, as well as parent-child classes and summer camp.
The Little Garden School in Fox River Grove offers early childhood education in a cozy, natural environment. It incorporates free learning and nature play through child-led exploration in the forest and garden attached to the school. The school serves children from six weeks to six years and only accepts 12 students (to two teachers) into the preschool program.
Just a little west, in Ringwood in McHenry County is the Nature’s Scholar Enrichment Center. The school focuses on natural exploration and teaching children to live an eco-friendly life using the natural world as their teacher. The outdoor campus was designed to encourage exploration with natural play areas built into hillsides, multipurpose play areas, and even outdoor art and music centers. The school serves children six weeks to 12 years.