The Fiddleheads Forest School believes in supporting the growth of the whole child through attention to their social and emotional development, self-regulation and physical development.
When children leave the Fiddleheads Forest School to enter their next phase they can…
Participate as a member of an interdependent community
Care for themselves and those around them
Realize and express their own needs in a clear way
Cooperate with other children to accomplish group goals
Understand the expectations of others in a given setting
Express many human emotions in language and art
Be inquisitive and make connections
Initiate new ideas and invent solutions to problems
Stick at difficult tasks or come back to them later in order to succeed.
Run, catch, throw, kick and tumble
Laugh and play with a sense of joy.
Paint, draw, sculpt, and construct objects of beauty
Care for common spaces and materials to maintain cleanliness and order.
Act in stewardship for the environment and one’s own health and well being.
Commitment to Equity and Cultural Responsiveness
Children develop an identity and an awareness of themselves and their relation to one- another in the context of their environment. At Fiddleheads, we strive to create a classroom setting that celebrates and supports our diverse community of families. We believe that high- quality early childhood education must take into account the greater context in which we operate; environmentally, historically, socially, and culturally. We respect the divergent needs, experiences, and learning styles of our students and work to embody them in our approach. We are deeply committed to honoring and valuing equity and diversity in our policy and practice.
As a school, we are dedicated to social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice. Our goal is to provide an inclusive classroom environment that is accessible to all children and that embodies anti-bias, anti-racism, and multicultural learning. As teachers, we actively identify and counter stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination, and we educate and empower our students to do the same. We teach children to notice and appreciate their similarities and differences, to take pride in themselves and their identity, and to develop respect and understanding for one-another. We provide our young learners with tools to negotiate conflict and differences of opinion peacefully and thoughtfully.
The diverse family, cultural, and religious experiences and traditions of our community are incredibly important to us. We invite all families to share their culture and traditions at school, and to help us to continue to refine our approach. If at any time you are not comfortable allowing your child to participate in these shared cultural or religious activities, or you feel that your experiences are not being reflected in our practice, please let us know. Our goal is to develop a program that is responsive and respectful of your family. We recognize that this work does not have an endpoint, and requires continuing critical self-reflection and education. Our goal is for Fiddleheads to continue to grow and change in response to our community. We always welcome your input and feedback.
Fiddleheads has two classroom sites located among the native trees and shrubs at the Washington Park Arboretum. At Fiddleheads, students spend the morning exploring and engaging in a multitude of ways. For example, on a given morning you might encounter:
Children gathered at the peace table to discuss what “zone” they are in, examine emotions cards, or use the peace rose to resolve a conflict independently.
A mixed age group heading down to the dome shelter deeply engaged in imaginative play; the dome has transformed into a den, and they are a family of wolves, bringing food home to their pups.
A young girl hunched over the microscope under a big leaf maple tree examining a jelly fungus she’s discovered.
Children and teachers following the sound of alarming crows to discover a young Cooper’s hawk or owl in the branches of a Douglas Fir Tree. Later, the students will process the morning’s lessons by incorporating the experience into their own play or recording it in a waterproof nature journal.
A circle time spent discussing the morning’s activities and integrating them into whatever we are studying at the time—whether that means connecting them to a social thinking concept like whole body listening or to a natural science unit on raptors. On chilly days the children prepare cedar tea to sip as they sing songs about lichen, count the days of the month or the days of the year, and reflect on the experiences they’ve had as a group.
An adventure out into the arboretum. There is an incredible wealth of wildlife here, and at Fiddleheads we take advantage of all it has to offer. The children know that the forest grove may be their classroom, but the Arboretum is their school, and on a given morning, anything is possible.
Kit Harrington – Founding Director
Kit Harrington, Director and Co-founder: Kit is an accredited Montessori Early Childhood Educator with over 15 years of experience working with children. As Director, Kit focuses on curriculum development, philosophy, equity & cultural responsiveness, family communication, research, and outreach in addition to her administrative duties. Her work as an educator is grounded in her background in perceptual learning and early childhood development as well as her passion for helping young children with diverse needs and experiences develop self-regulation and social and emotional skills. Kit works nationally to support Fiddleheads’ development and set standards for the field through her role on the leadership team for the Council for Nature and Forest Preschools and by helping write and define the National Best Practices for Nature-Based Early Childhood Education for the Natural Start Alliance, as well as regionally as the founder and director of the Washington Nature Preschool Association. Kit first developed a love of and appreciation for the natural world during her childhood in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where she spent her days exploring the back woods behind her house and making friends with the local wildlife.
Sarah Heller – Interim Director & Co-founder
Sarah is an environmental educator with over a decade of experience creating, building and teaching nature-based programs. She received a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine then returned to Seattle to pursue a year of hands-on graduate work at IslandWood, where she earned a certificate in Education, Environment and Community, and a Master’s in Science Education at the University of Washington. Sarah has been involved with the UW Botanic Gardens for over seven years, growing and building education programs. She is deeply committed to connecting families with the Arboretum and creating opportunities for kids to learn and grow in nature. In her free time, Sarah loves to hike, camp and backpack with her son and husband. After taking a few years to be a stay-at-home mama, Sarah will be resuming her role at Fiddleheads when Kit departs for her maternity leave in July.
Jenn Leibham – Lead Teacher (Trillium Class)
Jenn is an early childhood educator who has been teaching preschool in a variety of nature-based classroom settings over the past 5 years, including Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool in Milwaukee and Tiny Trees Preschool in Seattle. She is a born naturalist with a true passion for connecting children to nature and supporting their development. Her journey as an educator has led her to amazing people, inspiring places, and a deepening sense of self throughout it all. In addition to teaching preschool, Jenn is passionate about training young adults on how to connect their communities with nature. She has provided professional development to nature-based teachers around the country through conferences and workshops and is deeply rooted in nature-preschool philosophy. Jenn has a special love of playing, and of spontaneity in teaching, as well as a particular joy of jumping in puddles!
Stephanie is an Environmental Early Childhood Educator, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Her background is in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, looking at how humans and the environment interact. This past year, Stephanie began pursuing formal studies on child development and early childhood education in the context of her work at Fiddleheads. Her passion for education and community involvement act as pillars in her work to support healthy people, environments, and communities. One of her favorite things about Fiddleheads is the community that develops with students, families, teachers, and the forest over the course of the year. She loves fresh berries, and the thrill that you feel when you positively identify something new for the first time. Stephanie approaches environmental education with a sense of wonder and excitement; she can’t wait to join you on adventures that foster our fundamental appreciation for the natural world.
Caitlin Van Der Spuy- Lead Teacher (Magnolia Class)
Caitlin is a Seattle transplant from the East Coast. She is certified in Early Childhood Education and has a Bachelors in Sociology with a concentration in Emergency and Environmental Management. Caitlin has worked in early childhood education for the
past 10 years in a variety of settings including public schools, summer camps, churches, and preschools. At Fiddleheads, Caitlin has found the perfect place to combine her love of the outdoors with her passion for working with kids. Caitlin loves working with new families and introducing them to the wonders of the forest grove.
Jade Hoiby – Associate Teacher (Magnolia Class)
Jade is a Japanese, Norwegian, and Alaskan Native woman who finds herself continuously overflowing with enthusiasm and joy. Having been born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Jade feels an ever-increasing affinity for her natural and cultural surroundings. Last spring, she became a first generation college graduate with a degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Washington. Jade is a farm-fresh food enthusiast and is constantly craving the outdoors. She finds that she is her best self when outside exploring, hiking, running, reading, practicing yoga, or best of all, supporting young learners’ sense of wonder! Jade is in love with the nature preschool movement and with the process of teaching young children in the incredibly dynamic learning environment provided by the forest groves, and is elated to have the opportunity to work with children and families at Fiddleheads.
Interns & Volunteers
This program is part of the University of Washington and involves UW students as well as students from other area schools. Fiddleheads has developed a Pipeline Project to connect students studying in fields related to Early Childhood Education and Environmental Education with the Fiddleheads Forest School ‘s unique environment and philosophy. These students are future educators, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and beyond who will benefit from the opportunity to work in a nature-based early childhood program.
In addition to students we welcome community volunteers who are excited about connecting with and supporting early learners in an entirely outdoor school!
Interested in doing an internship, service learning project or volunteering with us?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently looking for volunteers and interns for the 2018-2019 school year