Lead Nature-Based Teacher and Forest Guide
My name is Molly McLain, I am a mother, a student and a child care provider that got lucky enough to spend some time here at Wild child! I work at a residential treatment program in a Child Development Center during the week. Here we focus on whole child learning and development, social and emotional developmental skills, and sensory regulation techniques for overwhelming moments. We also work with traumatized children to help them to get the assistance and accommodations they need. I spend my days here with many ages from newborns to eight years old. This has been something I have always wanted to do. That being said it is not all that I have wanted to do, another avenue I have been longing to explore has been working in a Forest School.
Learning in a nature filled environment, with resources provided by the outdoors, and in a sensory rich environment for all different types of learners and thinkers has been something that I have been fascinated by and believe in whole heartedly. I am currently majoring in early childhood development as well as special education. I decided to switch paths after going to school for social sciences and working in the substance abuse treatment field. Once I had my child, it seemed natural to go into child care after this as I could not shake the desire I had to learn about her, and the development of the young brain. I quickly realized that my many years of working as a mothers helper, baby sitting and working as a summer camp counselor would soon be helpful for my future. I began working as an in home child care provider for the next four years. I have provided child care services for infants to late elementary school ages and have loved every second of it! I spent countless hours outside and always aimed to create an appreciation for what the world right outside of our doors has to offer and to incorporate this into our crafts, and activities throughout my time as a Nanny.
The one struggle I had was when it came time to move onto the next step for my child. When learning about the importance of child lead play, natural elements, whole child learning, and the most natural flow of learning throughout the early stages of development in school, it made it hard to find a preschool that fit what was engraved in me. I felt like everything I could find went against what I learned to be ideal for these early ages. I searched for about a year to find a program that supported all of the things that were important to me as an educator, and a mother. I was extremely relieved when I found Wild Child Association! After one visit it was clear that this was the place for us.
As someone who has grown up with all of the wonderful parks Maryland has to offer, I spent the majority of my adolescence in the parks or outside. The rivers and woods played a vital role in my upbringing and was something that has always been important and a big part of life to my family. In my free time you can generally always find me outside, hiking, bird watching, camping or just sitting and taking in a view and the sounds around me. As my child prepares to move into kindergarten I am still in shock that she was fortunate enough to spend the time in this program that she did. The community, knowledge and independence that Wild Child Association provided her made moving on hard. I am so grateful to say that we don't have to completely say goodbye and that I have an opportunity to create that same passion for the outdoors and play a role in facilitating this for others.
Lead Nature-Based Teacher and Forest Guide (Saturday)
I remember the bright and exciting scent of my first pack of school crayons, the gritty texture of the eraser shavings from my wooden #2 pencils, and the effervescent sensation of the chitter chatter that filled my ears and hallways as I awaited my math class. Teachers were heroic figures to my six-year-old self. While other children pretended to be firefighters, police officers, and princesses, I was a teacher and often convinced my toddler sister that she was a student in my class. Fast forward and I am proud to have been a teacher for nearly half my life.
It was during my pursuit of my master's degree that I discovered my passion for teaching children in nature. “Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children” is one of most treasured leisure education text that has impacted my teaching philosophy. The main message of this book is that it is vital for children to get outside every day as much as possible. I believe the outside to be essential to learning, especially for our youngest learners since their brains and bodies grow so much during these years. Being outdoors is vital to children's mental, physical, and emotional development! And there are no down sides – through guided interactions with nature, children can master any academic subject.
I have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University, a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a MD teaching certificate in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. During the week, I am a teacher at the Reggio Emilia inspired preschool at the Roland Park Country School. Before my current position, I worked as a teacher at Johns Hopkins Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center, led a classroom of twenty-one first grade students at Baltimore County Public schools and led pre-K, two- and three-year-old classrooms at the Goddard School. I am a member of the National Association of Early Childhood Educators and have been a Marylander for most of my life! My favorite things to do in my spare time are singing, reading, cooking with my husband, and being with my cats.
Assistant Nature-Based Teacher and Forest Guide (Saturday)
Hi my name is Marina! I am 25 years old and studying psychology at UMBC. I’ve been working with children for as long as I can remember and am planning to become a child psychologist. I started off babysitting as a teenager and volunteering as a camp counselor. Since then I have worked as an assistant preschool teacher and private nanny! In my free time I enjoy fashion, music, art, and yoga. I am so glad to be spending Saturdays introducing your little to the natural world around us!
Paula is an innovative outdoor educator and play-based educational expert who began her journey as a Nature and Environmental Educator at the Irvine Nature Center in 2014. As a 2008 graduate of Notre Dame of Maryland University with a Master's in Elementary Education and a minor in Early Childhood Education, Paula worked as a teacher in Anne Arundel County Public schools before finding her calling in nature-based education. She became committed to nature-based teaching and learning after attending an inspiring conference, to which she returns each year to reinvigorate and share her passion for this work. Paula loved bringing kids outside and seeing them learn in a whole new light Using the outdoors as a tool, she was able to bring many of the concrete concepts that are learned within a classroom into a new space with countless opportunities for rich, creative and sensory experiences. The experience was a game-changer.
Paula spent five years working at the Irvine Nature School, honing the skills needed to bring these unique learning experiences to more Maryland children. In 2019 she left the Irvine Nature Center to help found and run the River’s Edge Forest Play, a successful forest enrichment program for children in Anne Arundel County. Paula has also been intimately involved with the Easter Regional Association for Forest and Nature (ERAFANS) where she helped to write the Nature Teacher Curriculum for their certification course and remains a board member today. She has given many talks, presented at conferences and taught a myriad of classes on different topics surrounding nature play and education.
Nature will always be a part of life for Paula and her family. From a young age, she was in birding and water testing clubs and the Ecology Corps programs at school. Now, she shares her wonderment of the outdoors with her own children (ages 8 and 10) and has spent the past year homeschooling. Paula is excited to join the Wild Child Association as Curriculum Consultant, helping association staff to design and implement an outstanding Forest Program for Preschoolers that adheres to best practices for child-led inquiry, safety, and the development of the deep, lasting connection with nature that is the birthright of all people.
Erin Wildermuth is an MD/PhD student at the University of Maryland Baltimore where she studies epigenetics, how environmental inputs influence the ways our genetic code is organized and read. As a parent to two young children, Erin has always had an innate belief that education should be nature based. When she started to research the subject, learning about the many deficits associated with a mostly indoor childhood, this belief became an urgent calling.
When Erin was unable to find an immersive outdoor educational experience for her daughter, she decided to move her family from their home in Baltimore City to open a Forest Program for Preschoolers. She found a rare two-acre home in Columbia, MD and was fortunate to run across amazing like-minded educators who have both taught and inspired her, making the Wild Child Association dream a reality. Erin believes that immersive outdoor education has the potential to transform childhood, reinvigorating a forgotten world of free-range children developing deep connections with the natural world and each other.