Growth is as crucial to kids as it is to the environment around them. The best learning is done through exploration with dirty hands, muddy knees and a pocket full of interesting pebbles. At Sequoia’s Treehouse their Children’s Center and Outdoor Summer Camp are full of play, creativity, choice, social and emotional skill building, and plenty of time to spend in the outdoors. The Owner of the Treehouse, Sequoia Hartman, has dreamed for years of providing additional opportunities for children to fully engage in the outdoors while learning about agriculture and environmental education. And so she recently purchased a 4.11 acre farm and is opening Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School for 4-and-a-half- to 7-year-old’s this coming September, 2019.
Studies have long shown the benefits of playing outside but they also strongly support using the outdoors as a learning environment. The North American Association for Environmental Education reports that: “Research has demonstrated positive benefits of outdoor learning, beyond engagement and academic outcomes. When students were given unstructured time to play outside, classroom behavior often improved and teachers experienced easier classroom management”. Several benefits for children playing and learning in nature include keeping children’s minds fresh; increased resilience and ability to negotiate risks; learning problem solving skills and developing a deeper appreciation towards physical sports; social benefits like building collaboration and connection, helping each other, and sharing; improved mood and reduced depression and mental fatigue; improved children’s ability to focus and concentrate and has proven to support significant student gains in social studies, science, language, arts and mathematics; improved self confidence; improved nutrition and reduced obesity; and boosted immune systems and reduced stress.
Sequoia’s Treehouse Children’s Center located at 3325 33rd Lane NE in Olympia will continue offering care to children from 6 weeks to 7-years-old. Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School—less than five minutes away from the Treehouse—will be available as either a standalone half-day program or in tandem with full-day offerings at the Treehouse. Farm sessions will likely run from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. for kids in the Pre-Kindergarten range (ages 4 ½ – 7). Kept to a small group setting, classes at the Farm will be limited to approximately 16 students and 2 staff.
Hartman is also part of a statewide program exploring the future of outdoor schools. By offering half-day sessions, she can get a feel for logistics, daily operations, and curriculum development for a future full-time, licensed Outdoor School with hours from 7am-6pm. The DCYF Pilot Program is through the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families and hopes to eventually license full-day outdoor preschools across our beautiful, temperate region.
At the Farm and Forest School, “children will learn to care for animals, plants and trees, garden, compost, build skills in woodworking, learn to gather vegetables and fruit and prepare healthy dishes, help build an outdoor cob oven, learn how to cook over fire, take field trips to estuaries, beaches, nature reserves, and build outdoor skills among many other environmental education and outdoor learning opportunities,” says Sequoia.
Joining the team to run and care for the Farm are longtime mentors and friends Marta and Phil Branch. “Marta has years of teaching environmental education, outdoor school, English as a second language, to name just a few areas of her expertise,” explains Sequoia. “She is passionate about the Pacific Northwest and helping protect its natural resources. She will be the Director of Sequoia’s Farm and Forest School and will help teach Outdoor Farm and Forest School this fall.”
Phil will also teach woodworking and agriculture. Before teaching English as a second language across the globe, he was a paraeducator and substitute teacher. He’s also worked in forestry and industrial design and loves coming up with new solutions to common household problems.
Don’t worry if the Farm class fills up before you’re able to enroll. Students at Sequoia’s Treehouse Children’s Center will take plenty of field trips to visit the Farm.
If you are as excited as Sequoia about this new Outdoor School and feel it may be a great fit for your child/ren, contact the school to schedule a visit. They can be reached by calling 360-742-3651, 206–482-8298 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Farm’s website will be live summer 2019. In the meantime, follow Sequoia’s Treehouse on Facebook for more info, directions, and updates on both Schools.
“Sequoia’s Treehouse Children’s Center is not going anywhere,” stresses Sequoia, “as it is my heart. The new Farm and Forest School is my soul.” And both have plenty of room to grow, foster creativity and teach the budding new minds of many of Thurston County’s preschoolers. The mud, leaves, grass, trees and occasional earthworm are just an added bonus.