Woodland Wonders: A Program for Unique Learners

Kids at creek

8-week sessions | February 8 - March 15
3-6 year old participants: Tuesdays, 10:00 - 11:30 am - REGISTER HERE
5-9 year old participants: Tuesdays, 4:30 - 6:00 pm - REGISTER HERE

Program is held outdoors at the Stryker Nature Preserve, 2342 Angling Road, Kalamazoo

Fee per session: $130 per family (1 caregiver + up to 2 children from the same household) Limited to 8 families.

This program for 3 to 9 year old unique learners and children with special needs, and a caregiver, will meet at Stryker Nature Preserve. Using nature as a tool, children will engage their body’s sensory system through gross and fine motor activities, develop adaptive strategies by problem solving new experiences, and gain independence and confidence through success. This group will explore nature and the woods, participate in fun hands on activities, listen to stories and enjoy games. There will be an exciting mix of both structured activities and open-ended play with peers. Led by a nature-based teacher with extensive experience with unique learners and children with special needs, this group will be limited to a small group size of 8 families. This will be outdoor fun that all children can participate in! All relevant health and safety guidelines for outdoor activities will be observed.

We recognize there is significant variability in what families in our community are able to afford. This reality is only growing due to the impacts of COVID-19. Financial assistance is available and can be applied for by answering a few simple questions during the registration process.

Contact Nature’s Way Woodland Wonders Coordinator, Kai McDonald, at kmcdonald@naturecenter.org for questions on the program.

Benefits of Woodland Wonders will include a:

• Focus on Gross Motor Development – Children will challenge their coordination and sense of balance by moving in all directions while hiking, climbing, rolling and running from one place to the next. They will also work their muscles by playing with rocks, logs, and sticks.

• Focus on Attention Span – Increased movement helps to stimulate the brain for increased attention to task.

• Focus on Visual Skills – Movement opportunities in nature, such as hiking and climbing, support a healthy sense of balance. This balance practice also supports eye muscle movement for increased eye hand coordination skills.

• Focus on Auditory Processing – Playing outdoors provides children a variety of opportunities to practice listening discrimination skills – such as discovering different bird calls or locating a peer calling their name in the woods.

• Focus on Fine Motor Development – Grabbing hold of objects such as tree branches, rocks, and leaves help children develop strong grasping muscles in their hands and fingers.

• Focus on Social Skills- Open ended outdoor playtime allows children to engage in creative, social adventures with peers, with the support of teachers as needed.

• Focus on Emotional Stability - Getting plenty of movement increases the body’s ability to regulate emotions and activity level. Specifically, spending time in nature has shown to promote calmness and improved mood.

• Focus on Conflict Resolution: Open ended outdoor play often comes with differing ideas from peers. This leads to problem solving individually and as a group.

Contact Nature’s Way Woodland Wonders Coordinator, Kai McDonald, at KMcDonald@naturecenter.org for questions on the program.

Meet Mrs. McDonald

Kai McDonald

Kai McDonald, Nature's Way Woodland Wonders Coordinator

Kai is a teacher with over 15 years experience in a variety of educational settings. She holds a Bachelor Degree from Western Michigan University in Elementary Education and Special Education, with additional endorsements in Cognitive Impairments and Autism. In addition, she holds a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from Wayne State University and a Special Education Administration endorsement from Grand Valley State University. Kai and her husband have a 7 year old son and a 5 year old daughter. She has experience as a parent of a child with special needs, and has a child who is diagnosed with Autism, ADHD and Anxiety. Kai is very passionate about the Woodland Wonders program, as she has seen firsthand how beneficial spending time in nature can be for ALL children!


Topics to Explore

Each session will focus on:

Physical Maturation & Wellbeing  |  Multiple opportunities to coordinate the use of big and small muscles within the embrace of nature.

Language Development  |  Using authentic, personal, and natural experiences to encourage language production for the simple joy of expressive and connective purposes.

Creative Experiences  |  Experiencing the influence of nature’s beauty and the joy of community to experiment with artistic expression.

Social & Emotional Development  |  Blending encounters of wide open spaces with captivating moments of tiny wonder to give outlet to both the tenacity and tenderness of toddlerhood.

Executive Function  |  Using the power of attachment to reinforce skills that foster poised, capable, and empathetic human beings.

Cognitive Growth  |  Exploratory play in the outdoors naturally creates opportunities for children to question, investigate, problem solve, and reflect on their experiences. 

Financial Aid Guidelines

To be considered for financial aid through the Kalamazoo Nature Center, please fill out the questions listed during the Nature's Way Sprouts registration process. Your tuition will be discounted if you meet the following guidelines.  Please email Lindsey at lhoman@naturecenter.org with questions.

Household Size Household Income At or Below
2 $40,000
3 $45,000
4 $50,000
5 $55,000
6 $60,000
7 $65,000
8 $70,000
Each additional family member, add: $10,000