The newest preschool in town, though, looks to change that and provide an outdoors-based curriculum to help children get a more “Natural Start.”
Natural Start Preschool, which opened for the spring semester on January 4, is located at 810 Carmel Manor Drive in Tower Park and follows the philosophy that “nature is the perfect classroom to teach our children essential skills for kindergarten and beyond.”
Katie Cook, owner and director of Natural Start Preschool, has worked for fifteen years at Kids and Cribs (on Alexandria Pike), her family’s child care center. And she credits her time there as an assistant teacher, lead teacher, and ultimately the assistant director as well as her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Kentucky as the foundation needed to launch her own preschool business.
The classroom teaching, though, is only a small part of her overall mission. Bringing the outdoors into children’s lives is top priority. Says Cook, “I believe these moments (outdoor moments) are not only important to a child's development and their well-being, but it is important to teach children how to love and take care of nature since they will be the ones who will be making important decisions about our earth in the future.”
The preschool will use the miles of walking trails and available nature that Tower Park has to offer.
The children will spend time outdoors year-round and in all weather, engaging with nature. The curriculum, though, will meet Kentucky’s Early Childhood Education and NAEYC’s standards and make Kindergarten-readiness paramount.
Says Cook, “Starting a nature preschool, in the area that we are located, has so many opportunities for our class to enjoy and learn from the environment in our own city. We will be able to provide rich and lasting experiences not only hiking and investigating throughout Tower Park, but I hope to build relationships with the local businesses, Carmel Manor, and the City of Fort Thomas and bring unique experiences to our class.”
While this is not the first school of its kind, it is the first in the immediate area (the Cincinnati Nature Center and Cincinnati Waldorf School's Woodland Preschool are others nearby). Cook expects other similar schools to open as the life-long benefits of environmental play and informal STEM learning are realized through additional research.
They will have an open house tomorrow (February 13) from 11-1 with snacks and crafts for the kids. The preschool is still accepting enrollment for the remainder of the spring semester and also for next fall preschool. School is available for 3-5 year olds with both morning and full-day options; additionally, the school will offer 10-week summer camps for ages 4-6. So if the right start for your child is a natural start, check out the open house tomorrow.