Our mission is to foster meaningful engagement with the natural world by providing accessible, immersive, nature-based learning experiences for all young people.
At Nature School Cooperative, we believe that all children deserve equal opportunities to engage with the natural world. We collaborate with leaders and organizations within our community in order to engage and support our young learners in a “hands-on, minds-on” approach. We know that when they are given the correct tools, children are capable of cultivating deep, meaningful connections with nature, and with themselves.
"Education we need for the world we want"
- Natural Start
In the spirit of healing and making steps toward reconciliation we acknowledge that the land we live and work on is unceded territory of the Arapaho and Cheyenne. We contribute to Land Back initiatives and find ways to uncover history of land settlement and colonization that lead actions beyond education. Co-founders of Queer Nature have put together this land narrative of the short grass prairie that we know of as Denver/Aurora with resources that can contribute to this journey of awareness to action. We have also deepend our own learning and understanding and share this land history document with families.
We contribute 3% of all profits to a local, women-led, indigenous community as a land-tax offering. We support the re-matriation of this land and intentionally collaborate with indigenous, black and other people of color along with other under represented local community members to ensure their voices are heard as we develop this program in land-based education of our youth.
At Nature School Cooperative we are always working to find ways to provide the most accessible and affordable nature programming to all children in the Denver Metro area.
Nature School Cooperative is co-founded as a queer, women-led business and is committed to always providing a safe working environment for traditionally under-represented folks.
Nature School Cooperative is committed to ensuring that we continue to build a diverse staff of educators and volunteers.
At Nature School Cooperative all of our programming is rooted in child-led and play-based learning. We meet young people where they are in their abilities and curiosities, and support each child’s learning in an approach that collaborates with the individual.
To connect experts in ecology, early childhood development, Indigenous practices, & sustainability to local communities of children & families.
We intentionally bring together young children, their families, and experts in the fields of ecology & child development.
To create environments that cultivate engaged eco-citizens.
We believe we must ensure that children care about the earth, before we ask them to save it.
To cultivate spaces that invite children & community to develop their own reciprocity with nature, & a sense of relationship & stewardship of the land.
We aim to nuture children's inherent curiosity, awe & wonder with the natural world.
By supporting children, families, and staff, we are able to build competent and impassioned communities of learning collaboratively.
All of our programming supports child-led, inquiry-based, play-based learning. We meet children where they are in their explorations and co-create learning with children.
To hire diverse, talented & passionate people to join our collaborations.
As a queer & women-led business, we value a safe working environment for traditionally underrepresented folks and are committed to ensuring we build a diverse group of educators and volunteers to share their expertise with children & the community.
INTEGRATED SCHOOL TUITIONS
We are developing Nature School Cooperative as an Integrated School.
In an effort operate Forest Preschool as a diverse and integrated school option, we follow a 1/3 equity model where we are striving to reserve one-third of our enrollment for underserved and historically marginalized populations and students who would otherwise not receive a Forest Preschool experience.
Colorado is beginning a "Universal PreK" option for children & families in 2023, which is still being rolled out by the new Department of Early Childhood Education. This option should provide 10 hours a week of supplemented childcare tuition for licensed programs. We are also working closely with the state to develop a licensed pathway for fully outdoor preschool programs, which we hope will be available in 2023. Both of these efforts will help to increase access and funding resources to programs to offset childcare tuitions in the coming year.
Tuition prices are comparable to other outdoor based preschools which is often more than a typical preschool because we maintain a 1:5/6 guide:student ratio (Most other traditional preschools are 1:10). We are cultivating a Pay-What-You-Can culture to honor the unfair history of our economic system. We are also a worker-owned cooperative, & are part of a movement to be able to pay all of our employees fair, equitable and livable wages. You can learn more about that movement below.
The seven principles used by the International Cooperative Alliance today are generally accepted by cooperatives worldwide.
Cooperatives are also based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
Voluntary and Open Membership
You can participate in this cooperative in a variety of ways, not all teachers are members, and not all members are teachers.
Democratic Member Control
Each member has 1 vote in decisions with the organization, and we vote on many aspects of operations.
Member Economic Participation
Members buy in, profit share, and make economic decisions for the company.
Autonomy and Independence
Members decide what is best for our programs, staff, families, and future plans.
Education, Training & Information
We invest in our professional development, share knowledge and trainings
Cooperation among Cooperatives
We collaboratively partner with other Cooperatives, as well as co-op development
Concern for Community
We focus on regenerative principles, land stewardship, and are guided by our PBC values
"How do we deal with uncertainty in the face of an out-come based education system still firmly embedded in economic growth and a fixed mindset?"
"How do we work within an 'industrial-based' education to shift our own practice and influence those around us to be more empathic and 'community-based' in order to stimulate our inherent creativity and innovation?" - John Cree and Marina Robb - The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy
These are complex questions and there is not a single answer. One way we are actively addressing this is through the school culture and business culture of our programs.
We are a worker-owned cooperative, and registered as a Limited Cooperative Association (LCA). We are part of a movement to pay all of our employee member-owners fair, equitable & livable wages. You can learn more about that movement here.
Public Benefit Corporation
Nature School Cooperative is a registered PBC, which means we are structured to operate with our organizational goals to make positive impact on our communities, and to use these principles to guide our decisions about the cooperative at many levels.
"The public benefit purposes of the Cooperative are to provide nature-based education that inspires connection, relationship, belonging, co-creation and regenerative human learning, relationships and activities. The Cooperative will utilize its human and financial capital in a manner that produces a material positive impact on society while valuing the well-being of its customers, supporters, community, and other stakeholders and shall specifically include:
5.2.1 Cultivating a culture within the Cooperative that supports and promotes creative and mindful work, as well as the health, happiness, and fulfillment of its Members, instructors, employees, students, and others;
5.2.2 Mitigating wealth and income inequality, and the harmful effects thereof, in our local communities and beyond by promoting high-equality employment opportunities, professional development and other related initiatives, programs, and opportunities;
5.2.3 Creating opportunities for Members and others to connect and collaborate, and to share and leverage resources and talent that support collective liberation to elevate human consciousness, relationship and connection to each other and the non-human or more than human world;
5.2.4 Creating opportunities for Members and others to take steps for reconciliation and reparations in righting historically oppressive human dynamics within the field of nature based education through direct partnership, amplifying voices, charitable giving, and volunteering with individuals or organizations that have been historically marginalized, and actively working to embrace justice, equity, diversity and inclusion as central tenets of nature based education;
5.2.5 Individually, collectively, and in collaboration with our Members, instructors, employees, students and others, creating regenerative environmental impact and promoting efforts to live and act beyond sustainably to regenerate, protect, preserve, and cultivate reciprocity and reconciliation within human and non-human communities; and
5.2.6 Forging and nurturing robust relationships with other individuals, businesses, nonprofits, governmental organizations and others to facilitate the advancement of any of our shared purposes, missions, or values."