As a toddler, Joe Beatty, of Sequoia’s Treehouse, used to go on hikes with his Mom and Dad while riding in a backpack child carrier. He was destined for fresh air and experiential learning. “Both my parents are teachers so we all had summers off and spent most of them camping and hiking,” says Joe. “My dad is a history professor and my mom is a high school English teacher.”
Joe’s interest in the outdoors began with his parents taking him on hikes and teaching him about nature, which then evolved through jobs as a rock-climbing instructor and canoe trip leader. To this day, he still actively canoes the Puget Sound.
Joe has lived in different parts of the United States – hiked the Appalachian Trail, worked on an organic farm, led rock climbing trips and canoed through silky water, among other experiences. In college he studied sustainable agriculture, then took some time off and got a job in childcare. “I ended up really liking it,” says Joe. “When I went back to college, the rest of my time was spent studying education – all types from early childhood to alternative and outdoor education.”
Joe worked with pre-teens at an outdoor and arts summer camp in Virginia in 2007, which he continues to do each summer. Joe worked at his first childcare center in 2010. He graduated with a master’s degree in education from The Evergreen State College in 2013 and has been working in education ever since.
Joe’s work career in education started with a boarding high school in California where students attended for a semester to learn about environmental sustainability and other topics. Joe returned to Olympia where he landed a position as the director with Sequoia’s Treehouse Children’s Center, a nature-inspired Early Childhood Education center. Joe helped open Sequoia’s Treehouse two and a half years ago.
At Sequoia’s Treehouse Children’s Center, Joe provides children opportunities to explore in nature and learn through creative play. “I love to watch kids create play,” says Joe. “It is amazing how complex and creative they can be.
“I was excited about this job because it brought together early childhood education and a big focus on nature and being outdoors along with a child-centered approach to learning. I was also excited about starting a program.”
Joe was particularly interested in the creativity and collaboration required with his position. As the director, he oversees the program, communicates with parents, trains and supervises teachers, assists teachers on creating curriculum, and makes sure the center is running smoothly. Joe especially enjoys working with the teachers on curriculum and problem-solving.
“I love being in the classrooms as well,” says Joe. “Whether it’s giving someone a lunch break or helping out at the beginning or end of the day, I’m in the classroom at some point every day.”
“In Thurston County especially, families are really excited about nature and outdoor education,” explains Joe. “That includes being outside, learning about plants, animals, and nature, and outside exploration itself.”
Joe’s extensive experience in planning curriculum and infusing it with nature-based learning has allowed him to work with his staff in creating an emergent curriculum based on what the kids are excited about.
“Our team focuses on the academic and developmental milestones and standards and weaves that into a child-centered curriculum,” says Joe. “I think the kids really thrive with that.”
Outdoors is the Name of the Game
“The wetlands we have behind the school are totally amazing and pretty invaluable – along with the goats and the outdoor area,” says Joe. “Our summer camp is based completely outdoors. They have a classroom for pick-up and drop-off only while most of their time they’re in the wetlands or on field trips.
At Sequoia’s Treehouse, one of the main focuses is to be outdoors as much as possible. The children not only spend a large portion of their day outside, but the classrooms will go outside in rain, shine, or snow.
“We’ve had our child, Kushal, at Sequoia’s Treehouse since it opened and he’s thrived there,” says Satish Ravindran. “Joe and his staff have come up with creative ways to explore the outdoors and we especially like how they regularly visit the nearby wetlands.”
“Joe is incredibly kind, caring, and one of the most patient people I’ve ever met,” says Satish. “It’s those qualities that make him an excellent director and, as you can imagine, great with kids!”
When asked how the two – canoeing/rock-climbing and running a childcare center – are alike, Joe says it’s a lot about trust. “I love being part of a learning community where children feel comfortable to be themselves,” says Joe. “The effect that quality early childhood programs can have on a child’s life and their place in the world is pretty huge.”
Joe has a whole lot of nature up his sleeve and he’s just getting started.