Nature kindergarten program

A new kindergarten program is starting up in Missoula this fall, and administrators say it's taking a creative approach to help kids learn. 

Growing Up Green is preparing to launch a nature kindergarten program in September. It's the brainchild of Growing Up Green owners Jacole Johnson and Travis Cole, a husband and wife team preparing for their own daughter to enter kindergarten. They weren't satisfied with their options, and decided to convert a dairy farm that's been in the family since the 1950s into an outdoor kindergarten experience. 

Johnson says the new program will focus on helping children develop social and emotional skills. Kids will learn about animals by helping care for a few real ones, pick up some reading skills while sitting in tree swings and start the morning with circle time inside a tipi. 

Johnson is a certified teacher with degrees in early childhood education and elementary education. She hopes the program will help kids learn how the world works by experiencing it directly. 

"I think this is really going to set the stage for their future academic success," Johnson said. "Just really getting them out into nature and encouraging them to explore without the boundaries that are typically found on a playground."

Johnson says the program will be up and running by September. She says Growing Up Green is currently accepting applications. The kindergarten program will run Monday through Friday, and will be $30 per day. There is also a Pre-K option, which will run Monday through Thursday at a cost of $33 per day. 

A ribbon cutting for the program is scheduled for March 13 at 4 pm in the Growing Up Green office. An open house for parents will follow at 6 pm in the same location. The office is located at 2100 South Higgins Street in Missoula. 

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