The Children’s Treehouse early childhood education center had an open house and annual Spring planting/clean up day on Saturday. This year also marks the 15th anniversary for the facility.
The center is a non-profit daycare facility for infants to five years old, located on the property of the National Conservation Training Center, and has the only certified Nature Explore Outdoor classroom in West Virginia.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re here because we’re behind a big Federal fence,” said Brett Billings, senior video producer for NCTC Creative Imagery. “Due to budget cuts, we haven’t been able to have our open house like we have in the past, so we’re really glad to have been able to have it (on Saturday). This is a great place if you’re looking for an alternative to day care because we have a strong environmental ethic and we have our kids outside as much as possible. Not a lot of places do that.”
“A common misconception from the people that know about us is that we’re just here for NCTC employees,” said center director Nickie Weller. “But we are open to the general public and we’re a non-profit. We’re not government employees. We’re just luckily able to be located on this 500 acre campus. That also makes us probably the most secure daycare in the whole area.”
Using a nature-based curriculum, the children take nature walks every day, rain or shine and collect items found along the way-interesting rocks, sticks, empty wasp nests, pine cones, pieces of bark-and bring them back to the classroom to examine through a magnifying glass or make drawings of what they’ve learned.
In addition to daily walks, the children spend a lot of time outside every day learning and playing. The staff incorporates different learning styles-visual, auditory and tactile, for the best possible learning experience using all the senses.
The play area has been planted with native plants and the children planted vegetables, herbs and flowers that they started from seeds indoors. They have outdoor instruments and dirt pits, and even a jungle gym, although teachers say the kids spend the least amount of time on the jungle gym.
“We use nature to teach the kids what they need to know for life,” said Weller. “We use nature to count, teach colors and shapes. A fun thing is that we look for hearts in nature. If you crack a walnut open, there’s a heart inside. If you cut an apple open there’s a heart inside. There are so many trees and plants that have heart-shaped leaves.”
Weller continued, “We also don’t have behavior problems here like some other facilities have. I’ll go to conferences and hear about issues other centers have to deal with, and we just don’t have that here because the kids get to spend so much time outside. Our kids don’t get sick as often either. Nature is very healing and nurturing.”
Weller even makes food for the kids purchased at farmer’s markets and other local establishments in an effort to feed the children food that is as organic, local and sustainable as possible.
There is currently a waiting list for the day care, but the center is always accepting applications and offers a wide array of summer camps for 5 to 12 year-olds, June through Aug.
“I would love to have the funds some day to open a sister site close by,” said Weller. “We would love to reach as many children as possible.”
For more information, visit their website www.childrenstreehouse.org or call 304-876-7354.