Chippewa Nature Center’s (CNC) Nature Preschool was the model for the recently published book, Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool. Nature Preschool, now in its fifth year, has quickly become a highly sought-after preschool program for families in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The program has also drawn a great deal of positive attention from early childhood professionals throughout Michigan. The book, written by CNC’s Director of Education Rachel Larimore, highlights these successes and provides a how-to guide for nature centers looking to establish a licensed nature-based preschool in their own community.
Nature-based preschools fuse early childhood with environmental education to develop a child’s lifelong connection to the natural world through developmentally appropriate activities. Since CNC began its preschool program in 2007, the number of nature-based preschools throughout the country has grown from twelve to more than 20. With the number of this unique, cutting-edge program growing throughout the country, many nature centers are asking themselves if a program of this kind is a good fit. Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool helps answer that question, and provides a framework for moving from concept to implementation.
“Nature Preschool has changed the lives of many children and families, not only in Midland, but throughout the region. My hope is that this book will make it easier for other nature centers to have the same kind of positive impact in their own communities,” said Larimore.
Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool is published by the National Association for Interpretation, the professional association of more than 5,000 cultural and natural history interpreters including naturalists, park rangers, museum curators and the like.
Larimore has been with CNC since 2001 and her duties include coordinating all youth programs such as school programs, nature day camp, scouts, Nature Preschool and more. In 2007, she implemented the groundwork to take Nature Preschool from a vision to a reality – a program that now serves more than 80 three- and four-year old children from the Great Lakes Bay Region. Larimore also co-chaired the nature center’s recent expansion project which, in addition to renovations to the Visitor Center, included an approximately 5,000-square-foot preschool building. The new building allowed Nature Preschool to expand from one to two classrooms and more than double its capacity.