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Downtown Businesses, Growing a Garden in Town, Health & Wellness, Interviews, Photo Essay

AppleTree: Where Learning Is Natural

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Socrates

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Due to a change in lifestyle, I do not keep up the Re-Discover Washington blog anymore, however, when something dear to my heart comes my way I make sure to share it with you. Such is the case with my friend Jennie Marie and her newly-opened Private Day School delightfully named AppleTree. She had started getting it in motion a while back before I left for Hawaii, and it’s wonderful to see that her awesome dream has come to fruition. I paid her a visit last week and I wished I was 5 again and I could stay there…

Conveniently located at 703 W 9th St in town, AppleTree is as cozy and cute as it can be!

Conveniently located at 703 W 9th St in town, AppleTree is as cozy and cute as it can be!

My friend Jenny and I visited on a beautiful spring day, and found Jennie and the kids having fun in the backyard.

My friend Jenny and I visited on a beautiful spring day, and found Jennie and the kids having fun in the backyard.

They all immediately greeted me by name (and you know that mine is a hard one to remember) and delighted us with their big smiles.

They all immediately greeted me by name (and you know that mine is a hard one to remember) and delighted us with their big smiles.

“If we are worried about the future, then we must look today at the upbringing of children.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

Here is Jennie with one of her adorable students. I will mix&match a photo essay with an interview with her as a format for this post ;-)

Here is Jennie with one of her adorable students and her sweet blind dog. I will mix&match a photo essay style with an interview with her as a format for this post 😉

What is AppleTree and how did you get the idea to open a Private Day School?  

I have always wanted to be a teacher but the idea to open AppleTree has been floating around in my mind for a few years.   I started college after high school and took a break after a couple of years.  Then, life happened and I did not get a chance to go back to school to finish my bachelors in early childhood until 2010.  Over the years, I worked in several private childcare centers and after graduating from UMSL in 2012 I taught for St. Louis Public Schools for a year and a half until my role as mom called me back to being a stay at home mom.  It was during this time that I started thinking about opening a preschool.  I started planning, originally just as a dream, but that became a reality when our small house in Washington did not sell after buying our current home.  It just felt right to follow my dream and open a small setting preschool.  I wanted AppleTree to be a small, intimate setting with natural elements where the children can feel relaxed and comfortable while exploring the toys and materials.  AppleTree guides children to be stewards of the environment by recycling what we can; we reduce our food waste by composting; we collect rainwater in our rain barrel to water the garden and we up cycle whatever materials we possible can.

The kids loved getting water from the rain barrel. They used it for watering the plants and...

The kids loved getting water from the rain barrel. They used it for watering the plants and…

Ok, watering the plants first... They had just planted some lettuce :-)

Ok, watering the plants first… They had just planted some lettuce 🙂

...this is where the rest of the water went. Don't you wish you could do that, too? I did.

…this is where the rest of the water went. Don’t you wish you could do that, too? I did. (wish, not actually do it…)

“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
Norman Douglas

Jennie and AppleTree share so many of my values/beliefs, recycling/reusing/rotting (composting) being some of them.

Jennie and AppleTree share so many of my values/beliefs, recycling/reusing/rotting (composting) being some of them.

Their garden is absolutely delightful.

The backyard  garden is absolutely delightful.

“It is frightfully difficult to know much about the fairies, and almost the only thing for certain is that there are fairies wherever there are children.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Yes, I believe this is the fairies hangout spot... ;-)

Yes, I believe this is the fairies hangout spot… 😉

What makes AppleTree different from other preschools?

I feel that AppleTree is different from other preschools because we have a child-guided curriculum with a focus on the environment.  We are also different because we get a lot of our food from “Farm to You Market” and buy as much organic food as possible.  We have already started planting our vegetable garden so the children can learn about growing their own food. While we do a lot with nature and natural learning, we also incorporate into our curriculum the Missouri Early Learning standards to assess their learning and developmental progress as they prepare to go to kindergarten.

With a lot of edibles as well, more being planted all the time.

Take a look at this beautiful garlic!! Knowing where food comes from and being able to grow it is a power by itself. Our life/health depends on what we eat…

I am so happy to see Jennie cultivating the love of gardening in her students at such an early age. There is something about planting a tiny seed and watching it develop into a full grown plant that shows us the wonders of nature and points to the mystery of who we are.

I am so happy to see Jennie cultivating the love of gardening in her students at such an early age. There is something about planting a tiny seed and watching it develop into a full grown plant that shows us the wonders of nature and points to the mystery of who we are.

“No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.”
Plato

There is nothing more rewarding than watching the fruits of your labor.

Is there anything more rewarding than watching the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor grow?

Why so much focus on outdoor activities? 

Children have a natural curiosity of the world around them and I want to expose them to nature as much as possible.  Incorporating different types of learning — such as counting, letters, colors, senses, beginning science – during this exposure and taking advantage of this natural curiosity tends to set up the children to more readily absorb what they’re being taught. That’s why we say AppleTree is “Where Learning is Natural.” Outdoor activity also builds grit, allows risk-taking, builds fine and gross motor skills, and personally I feel being outdoors as much as possible keeps children healthier both physically and mentally. Oh, and as a side note, so many children are afraid of insects and other “mysterious” outdoor things that I want to encourage them to explore rather than be afraid.

I think it's so vital for children to play outdoors when they are young. We all come from nature/are one with it and the bond needs to be nurtured.

I think it’s so vital for children to play outdoors when they are young. We all come from nature/are one with it and this vital bond needs to be nurtured.

The natural environment Jennie has provided for the children seems to be doing them well.

The natural environment Jennie has created/provided for the children seems to be helping them flourish 🙂

There are so many activities/games one can come up with being outside, and very little is needed to have fun.

There are so many activities/games one can come up with being outside, and very little is needed to have fun.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

Getting dirty is an essential part of it - did you know that being exposed to the dirt/plants/nature builds up our immunity? Sanitize it all and watch your allergies grow...

Getting dirty is an essential part of it – did you know that being exposed to the dirt/plants/nature builds up our immunity? Sanitize it all and watch your allergies grow… (you can quote me on that ;-))

Don't you guys worry - Jennie has the mud-cleaning system down ;-)

Don’t you guys worry – Jennie has the mud-cleaning system down 😉 After all, it’s only natural 😉

How does a typical day at AppleTree flow? 

A typical day at AppleTree starts with natural lighting, calming music on the iPod and a warm welcome as the children arrive.  We have a very flexible schedule that changes daily based on the needs of the children and what projects we are currently working on.  If it’s beautiful outside, we will pack our supplies up and head to our outdoor classroom where you might find us writing in our journals, painting with water, or cooking with wildflowers in our mud pie kitchen.  Our day is centered on what activities the children want to participate in.

As fun and delightful the outdoors is, AppleTree is equally charming and adorable on the inside.

As fun and delightful the outdoors is, AppleTree is equally charming and adorable on the inside.

I truly felt very welcome and loved the interior. Jennie, can I possibly move in? :-)

I truly felt very welcome and loved the interior. Jennie, can I possibly move in? 🙂

There are so many creative areas for the children to learn/play.

There are so many creative areas for the children to learn/play.

“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”
Bertrand Russell

Enamored with this vintage little nook.

Enamored with this vintage little nook.

Yes, please, I will have a cup of afternoon tea with you. Don't be skimpy on the crumpets.

Yes, please, I will have a cup of afternoon tea with you. Don’t be skimpy on the crumpets 😉

Art everywhere, because it makes life worthwhile.

Art everywhere, because it makes life worthwhile.

This, a favorite.

This, a favorite. A see a pack of playful wolves. What do you see?

Diversity as well.

Diversity teaches us that we are united in our differences and fundamentally all the same.

What were some of the challenges of opening up a private preschool?

The biggest challenges of opening up AppleTree were meeting local & state rules in order to get licensed, which I feel was an important thing to do. Also, getting the word out that I opened has been somewhat difficult as we are tucked into a residential neighborhood so we do not have a lot of street visibility.

Despite the challenges, I am so happy that Jennie had the courage and support from her family to open AppleTree and make a difference in our community. I am sure it was not easy, but oh so worth it!

Despite the challenges, I am so happy that Jennie had the courage and support from her family to open AppleTree and make a difference in our community. I am sure it was not easy, but oh so worth it!

Smiles like this show you it's the right thing to do...

Freedom/Joy like this show you it’s the right thing to do…

“We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong there.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Did I mention she makes the kid's food from scratch and they help out too?

Did I mention she makes the kid’s food from scratch and they help out in meal preparation too?

Yeah, it's a pretty cool place to be.

Yeah, it’s a pretty cool place to be.

I am not kidding when I say I want to move in...

I am not kidding when I say I want to move in… Maybe we can convince Jennie to open a private daycare for adults? 😉

How many children do you currently have and what is your capacity?

I am licensed to have ten children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.  I currently have 6 children enrolled.

Jennie and her adorable flock of little students.

Jennie and her adorable flock of eager to learn students.

AppleTree is a happy place, maybe that's why it draws me in... :-)

AppleTree is a happy cheerful place, maybe that’s why it draws me in… 🙂

Friendship at its finest ;-)

Friendship at its finest 😉

“In their innocence, very young children know themselves to be light and love. If we will allow them, they can teach us to see ourselves the same way. ”
Michael Jackson

Every day follows its own flow, with a loose structure that does not restrict, but allows room for the imagination.

At AppleTree very day follows its own ubiquitous flow, with a loose structure that does not restrict, but allows room for the imagination.

We all have our own blend of unique colors, and it's wonderful when our environment allows us to shine them brightly.

We all have our own blend of unique colors, and it’s wonderful when our environment allows us to showcase them in their full brilliance/brightness.

What motivates you to keep AppleTree running?  

The children.  Every day they accomplish something new or make a new discovery.  I had one little boy who was terrified of worms and insects and when we recently planted our new apple tree he decided that he wanted to hold a worm.  He now says, “I’m not afraid anymore. Worms are so cute.” It’s also great to hear when the parents come in and tell me how their child is excited about learning how to spell his name or about how she wants to come in and see her seed sprouting. This age is so important to get those minds working, and the more they’re promoted to be intellectually curious now, the more they’ll be open to learning throughout their lives. That, to me, will always be exciting and motivate me to do this everyday.

Worms are very useful for the soil/plants. Do you know what they do? If not, ask your little one... Food for thought...

Worms are very useful for the soil/plants. Do you know what they do? If not, ask your little one… We are all both students and teachers in the game of life.

It's not all fun and games... actually, it is and the best part is that you can learn so much this way!

It’s not all fun and games… actually, it is and the best part is that you can learn so much this way!

Activity/motion is essential for learning. It beats sitting behind a desk all day, I say ;-)

Activity/motion is essential for learning. It beats sitting behind a desk all day, I say 😉

Mud has healing properties and quite frankly, it's a joy to play in it ;-)

Mud has healing properties and quite frankly, it’s a joy to play in it 😉

“Children show me in their playful smiles the divine in everyone.”
Michael Jackson

We are all together in this, and it's never too late to start...

We are all in this together, and it’s never too late to start…

...because one can truly make a difference! (In this case, we have two {Jenny&Jennie} each making a difference in their own way) <3

…because one can truly make a difference! (In this case, we have two {Jenny&Jennie} each making a difference in their own way) <3

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”
Fred Rogers

Thank you, Jennie, for planting such important seeds in the sweet impressionable young minds under your care!

Thank you, Jennie, for planting such important seeds in the sweet impressionable young minds under your care!

Run free, run wild.

Run free, run wild.

I know, I know, you want to enroll your children like NOW! Just do it ;-)

I know, I know, you want to enroll your children like NOW! Just do it 😉

 

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

 

“All that children need is love, a grown-up to take responsibility for them, and a soft place to land.” ― Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches

“All that children need is love, a grown-up to take responsibility for them, and a soft place to land.”
― Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches

Follow the adventures at AppleTree on Facebook 😉

 

About Slava

I am a twenty-something Bulgarian girl in the USA, re-discovering the world through the lens.

Discussion

4 Responses to “AppleTree: Where Learning Is Natural”

  1. I am so thrilled that we discovered Apple Tree and Mrs. Jennie for our daughter! She loves going to “her preschool” and it is a great environment for her! Thank you!!

    Posted by Macharr | April 12, 2017, 9:47 am
  2. Well written article which truly depicts Apple Tree Preschool.

    Posted by Cheryl Alberternst | April 13, 2017, 7:46 pm

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