Skip to content
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

The Sprouts Experience

The mission

At Sprouts Art & Nature School, we are making space for children to imagine play be independent explore connect

so they can become grown-ups that will give respect. create. take responsibility. care. be lifelong learners.

Sprouts is an urban nature school:  an outdoor space – much like your own backyard or public park – to explore, learn, discover, and enjoy nature as part of our every day lives.

the research

There is plenty of research showing how the Sprouts Art & Nature School experience supports our mission.  We have a sister website with all the info. 

the staff

Sprouts is Caity & Ellen. There is no other place like it.
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

ellen

  • 50% Owner & Founder
  • Co-Director Sprouts Art & Nature School
  • Lead Teacher: Full-Day Childcare
  • BS Early Childhood Education: Birth – Grade 3
  • Special Educator Licensing Endorsement
  • Organization Administrator
  • Nutrition Manager
  • Construction Specialist
  • Sprouts Art Expert
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp urban forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

caity

  • 50% Owner & Founder
  • Co-Director Sprouts Art & Nature School
  • Lead Teacher: Preschool & After-School
  • BS Early Childhood Education: Birth – Grade 3
  • Special Educator Licensing Endorsement
  • Accounting Administrator
  • Human Resources
  • Plant Specialist
  • Sprouts Nature Expert
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp urban forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

Sisters Caity & Ellen perform each and every job involved in running a small childcare center.  With occasional substitute assistance from their mother, Claire (“Grammy”), Caity & Ellen are the teachers at Sprouts from open to close each day.

Caity & Ellen grew up in Champaign, attending Unit 4 schools followed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Caity currently lives in central Champaign with her three children, husband, and too many pets. In addition to her family, she loves crafts, Lake Michigan, and reading.

Ellen lives with her husband, dogs, and two sons in central Champaign. She loves her family, organizing, plants, and many forms of making art. 

Philosophy

Children instinctually grow, learn, connect, play, and create on their own initiative and in their own time. Our job, as educators, parents, and community adults, is to nurture and facilitate this process by providing the space, place, and pace they require.
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp urban forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

space

small community

Sprouts is a very small program with only two teachers, 18 students at one time, and approximately 25 families total each school year. Most of these families continue at Sprouts for many years – children attending from early childhood into elementary.

This small number of staff, families, frequently aligned values and hobbies, and children of similar ages creates a tight-knit group forming lasting meaningful relationships.

large area

Children need room to grow.  They need the opportunity to run as fast as they can, to jump and climb and discover, space to be alone and space to be part of a group. 

At Sprouts we provide children with over 7500 square feet of nature to call their own.  With only 20 people (2 staff & 18 students) using the nature playground at once, this amounts to 375 sq ft per child of play space.

sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp urban forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

place

urban location

Sprouts sits in a residential neighborhood in the heart of Champaign, IL. Many Sprouts families walk and bike to school, a four-lane road runs nearby, and the noisy hustle and bustle of small city life surrounds the property. The nature you’ll find here is familiar and accessible.

This urban setting is a key factor in our philosophy: that nature is not just a place you can travel to or visit; we can – and should – appreciate it, enjoy it, and conserve it in our everyday lives. 

central illinois

Children are greatly impacted by their surroundings and are in the prime developmental stage of forming attachments to places. 

At Sprouts, we are always discovering and learning from concrete examples around us. We don’t spend time on jungle animals or ocean life. The very things that make central Illinois so special – supporting children in growing a strong connection to the area.

sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

Pace

independence

At Sprouts we provide the access required to be independent. The children naturally venture further from adults as they grow more comfortable with the environment: exploring new areas, attempting new feats, and discovering their own interests and abilities. 

Children learn by experiencing the world first-hand through touching, looking, and experimenting. They do not need adult interference; they simply need adult supervision.

autonomy

Children need the freedom to direct their day.  They need the time to immerse themselves in their play without an adult timeline. As Mr. Rogers taught us, “play is the work of childhood.”

At Sprouts, children to lead the pace of their day; they are free to explore the entirety of the playground and any materials provided as they please. Our schedule allows for long interrupted periods of free play.

sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp urban forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

the environment

The third and possibly most important teacher at Sprouts: the environment.
sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp urban forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

Sprouts Nature Playground

The Sprouts facility sits on a city lot of over 1/3 of an acre in the heart of the city of Champaign. The side and back yard of the building is enclosed with an 8-foot privacy fence creating the Nature Playground. 

At Sprouts the majority or entirety of each day is spent on the Nature Playground where children are allowed to roam, play, and discover freely.

A variety of native and non-native gardens, including prairie, butterfly, bird, and woodland, are planted throughout the playground to introduce children to all the wonderful living things that can be found in Illinois flora and fauna. 

Also offered are spaces for imagining, like the giant bird nest and the mud kitchen; places for developing balance and gross motor skills, like the log steps and balance beams; areas for building and creating, like the outdoor easel and loose parts collections; and areas for performing, for running, and many other forms of play.

Sprouts Interior

Equally beloved (but not as often used as the nature playground) is the Sprouts building. 

Two classrooms, each with their own bathroom, cubbies for student storage and a small kitchen for making lunches are all arranged to bring the outdoors in. 

As with the playground, there are areas for all kinds of playing that children may interact with at will.  Puppets, trains, puzzles and books are all housed here – though they often make their way outdoors when the weather permits. 

When the weather is too cold to remove mittens art projects can be done indoors and full-day children can eat lunch and rest  in the warmth as well. 

sprouts champaign urbana school art nature outdoor preschool childcare daycare after-school camp forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio
ready?

Ready to begin your journey with Sprouts?