Nature Nuts Forest Kindergarten is an all-outdoor, early childhood education program designed to address concerns about the growing number of children who are losing their connection with nature – Nature-Deficit Disorder. Hands-on experiences and free play using all of their senses is the best way for children to learn. Their motto is “Get some nature on you!”
Nature Nuts if the first Accredited Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten in the country. Cedarsong is an award-winning leader in the U.S. Forest Kindergarten movement has received international accolades for its groundbreaking work.
The Nature Nuts Camp is on 13-acres of wooded private property in rural Maple Valley and includes many nature-based learning spaces:
• Extensive mature native forests with trails and “camps” throughout
• Multiple gardens which kids are encouraged to explore and manage (herbs, berries, fruits, veggies, flowers, pumpkin patch)
• 600 sf covered Mud Kitchen with running water
• Sandbox big enough for a whole class to play comfortably in at once
• Little Free Library
• Certified Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary stations for bird feeding and observing
• Two-acre tall grass field with crickets and beehives
• Log piles for climbing on
• Pond and stream
• Tightrope/”Squirrel Bridge”
• Forest Theater Stage
• Giant swings
• Outdoor kitchen w/sink, stove and tables
• Territorial view of the Cascade Mountain foothills
There are regular family gatherings at the Nature Nuts Camp. Children enjoy taking their families around to various areas they’ve been exploring. Events include seasonal celebrations: Back-to-School, Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, an adults-only Happy Camper party, Corks and Canvas classes, and weekend camping trips in the mountains.
The program was established in 2004 as an after-school program and has expanded to include four year-round forest school classes, extremely popular summer camps and a free Family Nature Club for the public. They serve around 200 children a year, ages 2-7.
Nature Nuts is a member of the American Forest Kindergarten Association (AFKA) and follows their educational model:
1. Nature Immersion – all classes are all outdoors and include hours of unstructured free play in nature no matter what the weather.
2. Flow Learning (aka Interest Led or Child Led) is implemented. Flow learning is the learning that emerges when children are free explorers in nature.
3. Inquiry-Based teaching is used. Teachers act as guides (reflecting back awe and wonder in nature) and are not the center of attention. Activities are offered, but are not required.
4. Documentation of learning is collected and is shared with parents to engage the family community.
In 2019, they hosted a Cedarsong Teacher Training course for teachers from across the United States to become certified Forest Kindergarten teachers.