There’s a lot preschoolers can learn inside a classroom, but Hannah Baune thinks nature is our best teacher.

To that end, Baune opened 10 Acre Wood Nature Preschool on Aug. 26 in Lakeville.

The 10-student school for ages 33 months to kindergarten is among a growing trend across the U.S. to establish nature-based play its core pillar of learning.

“It was a dream of mine for about five years after reading an article about this type of preschool and seeing the lack of this type of care available in Minnesota,” Baune said.

Baune earned her master’s degree in education and natural science and environmental education from Hamline University. The focus of her thesis was opening a nature-based preschool in Minnesota.

“We purposely chose our property (10 acres that came with a pole barn on the property) so that we could turn the pole barn into our school building,” she said. “We wanted a property with features such as an area we could restore back into native prairie, wooded area and a water feature. We were fortunate enough to find a property that ticked all these boxes for us.”

Baune spent all summer with the help of her family converting the barn into a school.

The site offers full-day care 7 a.m. - 6 p.m., year round and is located five minutes off I-35 near Walmart in Lakeville, which Baune says makes it a great option for working parents.

The school at 23580 Natchez Ave. has a student to teacher ratio of 5:1 and serves lunch and two snacks daily, using organic foods.

More information is at 10acrewoodpreschool.com.

Baune took some time out recently to answer some questions about the new school. Following are her responses.

What is the most rewarding part about being involved in your field? Why?

I’ve always wanted to be involved in education but did not know how in a way that also made me feel comfortable and something I could be passionate about. Previously working in other childcare center settings I never heard a parent come in and tell me how much their child learned from me or how much fun they had. At 10 Acre Wood, I hear things like this weekly from parents. It is so fulfilling and makes me so proud to be their educator and also reinforces just how much these children are learning from our program.

Why do you like having your business located where it is?

We purposely chose to buy property in Lakeville because it is where my husband was born and raised and his parents still reside. We wanted our children to grow up here in Lakeville as well and attend Lakeville schools. We have really felt the citizens of Lakeville have embraced our educational philosophy and welcomed and been supportive of our school.

What is your background?

I am from Hudson, Wisconsin, but my husband and I chose to make our home here in Lakeville. His parents have lived here since the 1980s when they were some of the first to build a new home in Lakeville near Cub. He has lived here his whole life. We spend the majority of our free time returning our property back to its “native” roots by excavating invasive species and clearing garbage from our land.

What kind of civic involvement is the company or its employees involved in? Why are you involved in the activities?

Ms. Hannah is a volunteer Master Naturalist with Minnesota Master Naturalists, a commitment of 40 volunteer hours per year. This allows her to keep up on all her naturalist knowledge as well as give back and encourage others to engage in nature. We hope to be profitable enough to provide a scholarship fund for students in the near future.

How did you capitalize the business and how do you strive to maintain a thriving business?

We used a small bank out of Albertville that believed in myself and my vision, Financial Security Bank. I also saved up my earnings for the past five years and used this savings as investment for the business. We hope with continued and increasing enrollment in our program the school will be able to sustain itself soon.

What advice do you have for other business owners either in your own field or generally?

The nature preschool field has doubled in size recently from less than 200 schools to over 450 in just a few years. My passion is to get kids outside, something that is dwindling for children in America. I would absolutely love to see more similar-minded schools spring up in Minnesota. I was the “first of my kind” in Scott County so it was a challenge to pave the way. I think there is definitely more work to do in government and for schools like this to be able to open more easily. I hope to continue to advocate to local government to help make it easier for more children to get outside through private and public programming and schools.

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