Nature School

Nature School is an outdoor, inquiry-based preschool program that supports child development through nature play and exploration. Designed for children ages 4–6, it helps the next generation foster connections with themselves, each other and the natural world. 

Location for 2024–2025

Nature School will return to Mississippi Gateway Regional Park as the new visitor center construction comes to a close. 

Learn more about the redevelopment project taking place at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.

How To Register

Online enrollment for the 2024–2025 program began on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

Class, Schedule & Tuition Information


Mixed-age class for children 4–6 years old. To enroll for the 2024–2025 school year, children must be 4- or 5-years-old (not yet 6) by September 10, 2024, and fully potty-trained.

Class Size and Ratios

12–15 students with 2–3 teachers.


September 10, 2024, through May 22, 2025

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9–11:30 AM

No class on: November 26 and 28; December 24, 26 and 31; January 2; March 11 and 13.

See the daily schedule.

Class Format

Classes will take place outdoors, in all seasons, rain or shine. We may spend time inside for specific activities when conditions are unsuitable for a full session of outdoor learning. See the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.


Total tuition for September–May is $1,320. Tuition is paid monthly; monthly payments are calculated based on the number of classes and range from $120 to $200. 

Tuition is billed in advance on the 15th of each month and due within two weeks. An initial deposit equal to the first month of enrollment is due upon registration and will be applied as the first month's tuition.

Financial assistance is available through Three Rivers' Recreation Pass Plus program.

Our Staff

Nature School teaching staff have professional experience in both early childhood and environmental education. All staff are certified in CPR and First Aid, and have completed a background check. 

Meet the Nature School Staff


A brown-haired woman in a dark blue shirt smiles while standing in front of a tree trunk.

Hello, friends! My name is Megan. I have a degree in biology, with a minor in music. I began working at Three Rivers Park District in 2008 and have specialized in leading early childhood programming throughout the park system. I have previous experience with a nature-based preschool, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a zoo, and several Minnesota-based nature centers. I am a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation and certified in teaching The Cedarsong Way Nature Pedagogy. My favorite part of Nature School is witnessing the growth of confidence, creativity and empathy in children throughout the school year. Outside of work, I enjoy gardening, paddling, home improvement projects and spending time with my family. 


A man in a blue zip-up and green cap smiles in front of a tree trunk.

Hi, Nature School families! My name is Anders. I majored in biology and environmental studies and minored in secondary education with the goal of becoming a classroom teacher and coach, but I have since been drawn to experiential and environmental education roles due to my love of the outdoors. I have been with Three Rivers Park District since 2012 and a member of the Mississippi Gateway team since 2017. In the past, I have worked at traditional preschools in downtown Minneapolis and small-town Iowa, taught at a nature-based preschool, and facilitated nature-based preschool programs at a variety of nature centers in the metro. I live in North Minneapolis with my wife, Katie, and our cats, Finn and Charlie. In my free time, I like to ride bikes, see live music, travel, fish, camp and ski. I am thrilled to spend time learning and exploring together. I cannot wait to see what our curious and adventurous Nature School crew discovers at Mississippi Gateway.


Headshot of Paula Suchy

Hi! I'm Paula. I have worked for Three Rivers Park District as a naturalist since 2012, working with school and preschool groups, as well as the rafting program. I like to explore and be creative. I am willing to try just about anything and find joy in attempting it. I am a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation and certified in teaching The Cedarsong Way Nature Pedagogy. When I'm not at work, you can find me in the woods or on the river. Just look for the flash of my favorite color: pink! 


Coleman, an instructor at Nature School of Three Rivers, smiles for a photo.Greetings, Nature School families. My name is Coleman and I am so excited to have a chance to learn with your child. I have a degree in biology and two in elementary education. After spending 25 years as a classroom teacher, I felt it was time for a transition to the great outdoors! While on a bike ride with my wife in 2017, we visited the nature center, and I became fascinated with the concept of outdoor education. I was hired on a part-time basis, and every day since has been a new learning experience. From birds in the Mexican rainforest to spiders on the plains of Northfield, to forestry in northern Minnesota and outdoor education on the banks of the Mississippi, my life’s journey has been one of wonder and exploration. The students keep me young with their insightful discoveries and creative observations. I love exploring with them, gently probing and supporting as they construct and remodel their world views. When I’m not at Mississippi Gateway, you may find me on the golf course, on a bike ride with my wife or at a dog show, always looking for life’s next adventure.


What Happens in Challenging Weather?

We appreciate that changing weather helps children develop resiliency. We find that when children are dressed comfortably for the weather, they enjoy rain, snow and mud just as much as sunshine. 

When weather does not support a full session of outdoor learning, we may modify class in the following ways:

  • Significant Cold: In significant cold, we follow a sliding scale of wind and temperature developed by the National Weather Service to determine the appropriate amount of time to spend outdoors. Some winter days may result in 1-2 shortened outdoor visits, with indoor warm-up time, to help balance safety and fun. 
  • Storms: In the event of a thunderstorm, our class will remain inside for 30 minutes after the last lightning strike or boom of thunder. Time spent inside may include a story, nature investigation, snack time or free play.

Should My Child Bring Anything to Class?

Students should bring a backpack with a snack, a filled water bottle and a full change of clothes each day. 

What Should My Child Wear to Class?

See our recommended gear list.

To help increase access to outdoor learning, Nature School has an outdoor gear lending program available for families interested in borrowing needed outdoor gear for the year. 

What If I Need to Cancel My Child's Registration?

Cancellations made less than 30 days before the first of the month are not refundable.

How Will I Know About My Child's Day?

Teachers will share your child’s adventures through weekly photos and communication within a parent/teacher app. With a focus on experiential learning, there will be little-to-no paper evidence of our learning to send home in backpacks. In contrast, your child’s backpack will likely include wet socks and an occasional rock or pinecone!


Knock-your-socks-off good. Incredibly caring naturalists (three for 15 kids) empower kids and facilitate social emotional learning alongside environmental exploration and stewardship.


We are so grateful for Nature School! Our child has really opened up and thrived in the year-round outdoor classroom environment. The teachers are phenomenal and bring gentle encouragement to problem solving, team building, and the social skills needed at this age. We love the pictures and questions that are sent to us after every class to further learn about our child’s day from their perspective! We highly recommend this class!

–JoAnna & Robert

Nature School has been an exceptional experience that exceeded our expectations! We love that the children spent time outdoors no matter the weather. Our son loved exploring the park and learning through play. The teachers encourage imagination and creativity using nature as the playground. It was a unique experience that we highly recommend!

–Sarah & Zach

Contact Us


Phone: 763-694-7790

Related Blog Posts

January 22, 2020

The growing list of benefits from learning in outdoor environments suggests a need for looking at early childhood education through a new lens. Learn all about Nature School and the benefits of taking the preschool classroom outside, and how to incorporate more outdoor time in your preschooler's life.