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Sprouts Nature Program for 3- to 5-Year-Olds
Sprouts, for 3 to 5-year-olds (see age guidelines), is designed to give children quality time outdoors in natural settings, with adult supervision and gentle, knowledgeable guidance.
The Sprouts Morning Nature Program begins with drop-off at 8:30 a.m. and goes until 12:30 p.m.
Fall Semester 2017, Aug 28 to Dec 22
Spring Semester 2018, Jan 8 to May 30
Email Zac at info@TaprootNatureExperience.org with any questions
At Happy Hollow Park, before heading out to our day’s activity, we often have a group discussion. During this time the teachers will introduce the activity to the kids. While not a formal lesson, this discussion time does provide the leaders an opportunity to address any important concepts, connect with each child, and get them excited about the day’s events. Some days the Centering Circle will include songs, poems, improvisational theater, and a read-aloud book, or story. We often incorporate an active game, yoga, dancing, or other physical movement into this time. The Centering Circle is an excellent opportunity to practice kind interaction and reinforce the idea that respect for ourselves, each other, and the earth are the foundations of peaceful, happy living.
Activities and Philosophy
We’ll leave Happy Hollow Park in the Taproot Van and travel to our natural area or activity of the day. The day’s activities are largely determined by the weather and the interests of the children, but can include:
• hiking, creek exploration, and prairie walks
• planting, tending, and harvesting from the garden
• farm animal care
• phonics and whole language introduction
• campfires and campfire cooking
• animal tracking and track casting
• art projects with natural materials
• cloud watching and quiet observation
• plant and animal identification
• outdoor safety and awareness
• fairy house building and village design
• sorting and categorizing with natural materials
• shelter building
• sand engineering--building dams, reservoirs, and river channels as well as castles
• pond canoeing and swimming with life-vests
• yoga and mindfulness practice
• active games
• singing, dancing, and creative movement
If given space and freedom, children will find worthwhile things to do in natural settings. To that end, we make sure to have ample time where teachers provide guidance and scaffolding to their exploration, but let the kids find their own occupations and do not try to control their play. We believe that this unstructured--though safe and supported--play is essential to children’s development, and that these kinds of experiences build a foundation for self-direction, intrinsic motivation, a life-long love of learning, and respect for nature.
In addition to our strong outdoor focus and appreciation for the natural world, a very important part of the Sprouts program is helping children learn to interact kindly and respectfully with each other, to effectively and peacefully communicate their needs and wants, and to honor themselves by taking responsibility for their actions. All of the Taproot teachers pay close attention to making sure every child is safe--emotionally as well as physically. We help the children solve conflicts peacefully while treating each other with kindness and respect. Our teachers practice compassionate and thoughtful communication, and our low student-to-teacher ratio allows us to facilitate kind interaction, and to give guidance and gentle correction when necessary.
Parents pack a healthy lunch, and we practice a “pack-in, pack-out” policy—meaning that all leftovers and trash from the lunch go home with the child (except compostables that might go to the garden or the Taproot Pigs). Our hope is to minimize disposable items and packaging. We will eat lunch at our day’s destination, Happy Hollow Park, or the Harvest Preserve Pond House. Sprouts lunch is a sit-down, calm affair where kids practice using good manners and enjoy each other’s company. We take the opportunity to talk about the amazing things that happened to bring the food to our lunch bags, and children and teachers have a chance to express their gratitude for the good things in our lives.
Our goal is to have as much quality time in nature as possible; however, sometimes the weather prevents us from being outside. During “bad” weather, we might ride the city bus to the Natural History Museum or attend storytime at the library, visit the greenhouses and gymnasium at Scattergood Friends School, play active games and do art projects at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, and other indoor options.
2017-2018 Dates and Fee Structure
Families sign up for the semester, for whichever mornings they like. We mainly follow the Iowa City School Calendar for holidays and breaks. The cost is different for each day of the week because the number of times each day meets per semester varies. We offer a $50 per-day-per-semester discount to families who enroll their child for multiple days of the week. For example, if your child comes to Sprouts on Mondays and Tuesdays, your semester discount would be $50. If she comes Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, your discount would be $100.
Prices listed are for the whole semester.
Financial aid is available. Contact Zac for more information.
All kids are unique, and our age parameters are flexible. We will consider taking an older two-year-old into a Sprouts program. We trust parents to know if their child is ready for Sprouts. Please feel free to call us to discuss your child’s unique situation.