With child care costs so high, many parents want their kids to get the most out of it. For some, that means thinking outside the box.
Math, science and English are part of every day in a classroom, but at the Aurora Waldorf School, they’re doing things a little differently.
"Coming out of the pandemic especially, it really gave families an opportunity to pause, really think about their values, [and] think about what their goals were for the future," said Kathryn Lalley, marketing and communications director for the Aurora Waldorf School.
For 31 years, the Aurora Waldorf School has taught kids using the natural surroundings of their 31-acre campus.
"We’re gonna look for some critters," explained one instructor to her class.
Students of all ages are outside most of the day, rain or shine. It’s part of an increasing trend, according to Natural Start Alliance. It says from 2010 to 2020, these "nature preschools" increased 25-fold, and now there are close to 600 of them in the U.S. They are teaching kids like 5-year-old Lily Gomez how to safely push their boundaries, while respecting nature.
"It's fun because I like taking care of insects," Lily said. " 'Cause I have a whole ladybug collection. I have thousands of them."
In the process, they get a more hands-on lesson.
"Instead of sitting in a science lab, we're gonna come out here and do it," Lalley explained. "We're gonna come out here and do experiments. We're gonna go outside and do engineering experiments with pulleys and lifting rocks and lifting tree stumps."
Lalley's son Nico is enrolled at the school.
"This is our playground, essentially," Lalley exclaimed. "I mean, how special and unique is that?"
Lalley wants her kids to learn to be problem solvers without the pressure you might find at typical schools.
“We felt within our family, and I would say that a number of our families echo this feeling, that modern education is moving too fast," she explained.
The kids aren’t out here all the time.
"All of the elements are natural wood, natural materials, wool," Lalley said while exploring one of their indoor classrooms.
However, while the weather's nice, they’ll take their lessons in the great outdoors.
One issue many of these nature schools face is diversity. The Natural Start Alliance found minority groups to be significantly underrepresented in the programs.
Part of that may be due to cost, as these schools are typically private. The Aurora Waldorf school does offer scholarships to try and make it more accessible to all families.