The mission

At Sprouts, 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 pedagogy supports this mission.  You can read some of them at the Children & Nature Network. 

the staff

The Sprouts staff are the backbone of the school.


  • 50% Owner
  • Co-Director
  • Head Teacher
  • Organization Administrator
  • Nutrition Manager
  • Construction Specialist
  • Sprouts Art Expert


  • 50% Owner
  • Co-Director
  • Head Teacher
  • Accounting Amateur
  • Human Resources
  • Landscaping Specialist
  • Sprouts Nature Expert


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.


small community

Sprouts is a very small program with only two teachers, 18 students at one time and approximately twenty-five families total each school year. Most of these families continue at Sprouts for many years – some have been with us since opening in 2014.

This small number of 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. At Sprouts we provide them with the independence they crave and over a quarter acre of nature to explore freely.

Inside the privacy fence is a 7,500 sq ft nature playground that hosts a variety of eco-systems and habitats that the children use over 2000 hours a year.


urban location

Sprouts sits in a residential neighborhood in the heart of Champaign, IL. Many Sprouts families walk to school, a four-lane road runs nearby, and the noisy hustle and bustle of small city life surrounds the property.

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 that is what we are always learning about.

We don’t spend time on jungle animals or ocean life; we are focused on the real natural events happening around us. The very things that make central Illinois so special – supporting children in growing a strong connection to the area.


freedom of choice

Children need the autonomy to direct their day.  They need the time to immerse themselves in their activities without direction or interruption from adults. 

At Sprouts, we allow 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. 


Children also need to experience the world first-hand – by touching, looking, experimenting and questioning. 

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. 

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 forest kindergarten outside waldorf montessori reggio

Sprouts Nature Playground

At Sprouts the majority, if not all, of each day is spent on the Nature Playground. 

The entire Sprouts grounds sits on a city lot of over 1/3 of an acre. The side and back yard of the building is enclosed with an 8 foot privacy fence: the Nature Playground. 

A variety of native prairie, butterfly, bird, and woodland gardens are placed throughout the playground to introduce children to all the wonderful living things that can be found in Illlinois nature.  Children regularly interact with slugs, bugs, birds and other creatures. 

Also offered are spaces for imagining, like the giant bird nest and the mud kitchen; places for practicing balance and gross motor movement, 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 – and 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 have rest time 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 to begin your journey with Sprouts?