Kids get creative at area’s first forest preschool

Thrive Forest School encourages hands-on learning through nature

Area's first forest preschool helps kids get creative

GOSHEN, KY (WAVE) - Preschool students at Thrive Forest School are getting back to basics, out of a stuffy building and learning hands-on through nature.

Class is held outside every day, no matter the weather.

"As soon as you put kids within four walls they start bouncing off of them, so we take the walls away,” Director Ryan Devlin said.

Backpacks of students at Thrive Forest School.
Backpacks of students at Thrive Forest School. (WAVE 3 News)

Thrive is located at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, where students have access to 170 acres of nature to explore. Devlin said the always changing, often unpredictable weather conditions allow students to constantly discover new things.

“Things have really sped up, I think, for children and they’ve become so structured going from one practice to one rehearsal and that kind of thing,” Devlin said. “For three hours out here we’re trading screen time for green time and we’re giving kids an opportunity to just get muddy and have fun, and they leave school every day with these huge smiles on their faces.”

Before he became the school’s director, Devlin was living in Hollywood. He’s had acting roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters and Veronica Mars.

When his wife was offered a job at UofL last year, they knew the move meant their son would have more access to the outdoors.

“We just wanted him to be able to access things like this, a childhood where a kid can just be a kid and be out in nature and explore,” Devlin said.

Devlin said his son’s self-confidence is growing already.

“In just a few months of being in this child led environment, he’s much more bold now, he’s willing to take risks, assess them and figure out if something right for him or not,” Devlin said.

Tavia Cathcart Brown is the executive director of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve. The park has hosted a summer program for kids before, but this is the first time the program has run through every season.

"It inspires me because we all have fears and fears protect us, but sometimes they hold us back,” Cathcart Brown said.

While adults are always close by, students are given space to think and learn independently.

"If we allow children to be there and be in the moment and be present, it’s remarkable what they have inside of them if we let it out,” Cathcart Brown said.

Class sizes are kept small. There’s one teacher for every five students.

Monthly tuition for the three day preschool program is $378. They plan to expand to offer the program five days a week next year.

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