Jennifer Stuart debuted her rolling eco-friendly classes at the Twelve Hills Nature Center in April. Photo by Stacey Potter Jemison. Additional photos by Andrea Ridout.
May 15, 2017
Jennifer Stuart is using a repurposed bus to introduce kids to a world she says a growing number of children are unfamiliar with – the outdoors.
The longtime children’s educator from Dallas said for many years she's envisioned teaching an eco-friendly curriculum that engages children in nature. She made that vision a reality this year with the launch of Seed Preschool.
The idea for the rolling classroom came together when Stuart acquired a retired school bus from Thrall ISD in Central Texas and dubbed it Matilda.
How did she come up with the name?
“As with naming a child, there were many possibilities considered,” said Stuart. “Upon driving past Matilda Street and seeing the sign, it stuck. We are also reminded of the beloved Roald Dahl character of the same name.”
The bus has been modified to accommodate curious children in both morning preschool classes and afternoon homeschool groups. The age groups will range from preschool ages three to six years old to home school ages of six to nine years old.
Stuart said the bus came with most of the seats removed and wooden bunks installed. These were removed as well.
“The interior has been thoroughly cleaned and furniture and decor installed to become a preschool classroom,” Stuart said. “Shelving is attached to the walls, bungees and magnets are used to help keep things in place while driving. We added a sink, a toilet and electricity powered by a battery and inverter. The outside is painted unlike any other school bus out there.”
In April, Seed Preschool was ready to hit the road.
Going forward, Stuart will be teaching a variety of classes guided by the wisdom of various educational techniques. This will include everything from the theories of Rudolph Steiner/Waldorf Education to Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory, to name a few.
According to the school’s website, Seed Preschool features a holistic, self-directed, project-based learning experience for children in small groups. These ideas are routine oriented more than scheduled activities. There are outdoor explorations as well as such as farming and gardening activities. And classes will begin with yoga, movement and music. Life skills will also be taught like knitting, cooking and woodworking.
Stuart, who has 25 years experience as a preschool director, teacher and homeschooling parent, said the curriculum was developed from a previous children’s program, the Farm to Market Workshop, which she offered from 2014 to 2016. Requests from parents for a more permanent program led to the development of Seed Preschool.
Focused on serving the North Oak Cliff area at Twelve Hills Nature Center, Stuart said down the road there is a chance she will visit other locations too.
For now, Stuart is planting the seed for addressing a need that is not being met in traditional educational settings.
“I’m bringing nature education to young children in a world where outdoor play and exploration is happening less and less and is increasingly more important.”
For more information, visit www.seedpreschool.org.
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