Nature as Teacher – Santa Cruz preschool photographer

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”Frank Lloyd Wright


When we explore outside, we fill all of our senses along with taking in new knowledge. I have felt a bit disconnected from nature in recent months and can see the effect on me; being in nature is so healing. While I’m working on my own health and well being, I want to ensure my son’s needs are still met.

So I was excited to hear about the new Santa Cruz Forest School venture, based in the northern part of Boulder Creek and originated by Sean Twohig. My son has always loved playing outside, so this school seemed like a great fit for him to grow more independent, learn in a very hands-on way, and really just get dirty.


Yes, dirty. Like this. Every day isn’t about playing in wet clay, but some are. And the kids love that.



And once they get dirty, they can get clean again!



The kids also love working with tools, like these hammers and nails (used, of course, with supervision and light guidance).







Sometimes, the kids might just get to see a llama. Or have a morning pow-wow on wood-stump benches nestled inside a tee-pee. Or dig in the dirt and see how it feels in different contexts, like being pushed in a wheelbarrow or dumped into an empty tire. There may be art days, days down by a small portion of the river, days spent dancing and singing. Sean has ideas, but the children help dictate the day’s activities, as well. If the kids want to explore it, Sean and assistant Ra work to help let it happen.



Sean is passionate about letting the children tell stories every day. In these photos, he is listening to the kids tell stories at their home base in Boulder Creek, as well as on a field trip in Davenport.



Currently, Fridays are field trip days. At this particular field trip in Davenport, the kids (and Sean and Ra) loved climbing and hiding among the cypress trees.



These littles’ natural monkey tendencies were fully realized during this outing along Davenport’s gorgeous cliffs.



The trees also made for good storytelling space, and many of the kids gathered together with Sean and Ra to tell their stories. Field trip days include many parents, though they are not featured in these photos. But there were many there that day and they were all nearby. This is a co-op preschool, so parental involvement is encouraged, though it is not required. Every day also includes a potluck lunch so everyone can sit together and eat at the same time and contribute to the meal.


Nature and exploration are the true teachers at the Santa Cruz Forest School. Sean and Ra are just there as guides.


Currently, Mondays are spent in Boulder Creek, Wednesdays are to be out in nature in another consistent location, and Fridays are field trip days all over Santa Cruz county and possibly beyond. For more information, please visit the school’s website.


2 thoughts on “Nature as Teacher – Santa Cruz preschool photographer

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