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Raintree School in West County Provides Nature-inspired, Experiential Education to Preschoolers, Kindergarteners

At a local kindergarten and preschool with large, child-centered classrooms, gardening is part of the curriculum. It’s a place where students learn to grow and harvest food before cooking it in the St. Louis-area’s only school-based green kitchen. After, the children go outside for physical education where they will climb boulders, jump over logs and balance on others. They will perform on stage at an outdoor amphitheatre, and they will play, learn and explore more than 11 acres of private woodland and prairie.

This is the new Raintree School, a private kindergarten and preschool, and construction is underway on their new $2.3 million educational facility located in Town & Country. Upon completion, it will comprise 6,800 square feet of learning space with four child-centered classrooms, a large Atelier (art studio) for hands-on science and art exploration, a teaching kitchen, a dining room, an outdoor piazza, a nature-based playground with a large garden, and more than 11 acres of woodland and prairie for exploration and learning. Scheduled to open this winter, the new school, located on Mason Road just north of Manchester, will serve approximately 70 children ages two to six.

Brandi Cartwright and Ilya Eydelman started Raintree in Ballwin in 2006. Their Reggio Emilia-inspired school offers a unique design and nurturing environment to help the children in our community thrive in ways not available elsewhere. Raintree is one of only a few Reggio Emilia-inspired schools in the St. Louis area, and when they move to their new, campus, they will become the only Forest School in Missouri.

Developed in Northern Italy shortly after World War II by lifelong educator Loris Malaguzzi, the Reggio Emilia approach is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community. It encourages exploration and discovery in a supportive, enriching environment leveraging the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum. Forest Schools are a type of outdoor education that introduces young minds to the outdoors to build independence and self-esteem.

The setting at the new Raintree location will be even more conducive to exploration and learning, and each classroom, as well as all common areas, has a specific purpose within the learning environment. Every element within the playground will be multi-use and encourages interaction between the children and the wild spaces around them. There will also be a 1,000-square-foot covered outdoor play area and nature trails set amongst green elements that will help to preserve the surrounding woodlands.

Cartwright and Eydelman have been in the educational field for more than ten years. Raintree is also a co-founding institution behind the Gateway Children’s Nature Connection, a local coalition devoted to inspiring and educating children through nature.

For more information about the school, go to www.undertheraintree.org or call (636) 386-0900.

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