Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool expands offerings

NEW HAVEN — The Willowell Foundation has moved its Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool program from Starksboro to New Haven and expanded from once a week to a full five days a week.
“It’s a nature-based program and the kiddos will spend most of their days outside exploring nature,” said Tasha Ball, administrative director of the Willowell Foundation, which also runs the Walden Project outdoor alternative high school.
Wren’s Nest, which has operated for about six years, offers a program that puts 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds out in nature to play and learn. Over the summer it moved from Camp Common Ground to Treleven Farm, owned by the Cheryl and Don Mitchell, off of Hallock Road in New Haven. Directors plan on keeping the same core curriculum of nature-based sensory exploration and place-based education. The students and teachers will spend the majority of their time outdoors through all of Vermont’s seasonal elements, Ball said.
“Although there is a home on the Mitchells’ property that has been converted into indoor classroom space for sub-zero days, the children and teachers will learn by exploring Treleven Farm’s 130 acres of forests, meadows, marsh and pond,” she said. “It is an exciting new chapter for an organization that seeks to fill the need of more outdoor education for all children in Addison County.”
The program has added a new teaching director, Suzanne Young, who holds a BS in Elementary Education and Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont and is pursuing a master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability from UVM’s School of Natural Resources. For the past eight years Young was the chef and farm to school educator at Mary Johnson Children’s Center in Middlebury, where she blended her love of the outdoors and seasonal and local food into nourishing meals for young children and teachers.
Wren’s Nest is on the Mount Abraham Unified School District’s calendar and school started Aug. 29. It is recognized by state officials as a three-star day care program, and families are eligible for funding of 10 hours of preschool per week through their school district. This applies to any family in Addison County, not just those in the Bristol-area schools, Ball noted.
The program accepts children ages 3-5 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with an extended care option until 4:30 p.m. It has 15 pre-K spots in total and four teachers.
More information is at willowell.org/wrens-nest-preschool-2 or 802-453-6195.

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