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Our Environment 

Our unique little one-room pre-school is located in the historic Powell Hall building on the campus of Claggett Retreat Center nestled between Sugar Loaf and the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounded by almost three hundred acres of farmland, rolling hills, fields, lush forest, and rippling streams. 


Discovery Natural Learning Center's design meets the ten qualities that characterize a place for childhood as stated by early childhood expert and author Jim Greenman. 

​ "A Great Place to Live:  A non-institutional, welcoming place to be."

Our intentionally home-like setting welcomes children with warm child-height furnishings, real materials, and places to play, share meals, rest, and gather. 


"A Place of Beauty: A sensory -scape of taste and sensibility that encourages an appreciation of life and what the world has to offer"   

Soft color, layered texture, natural lighting, tangible nature collections, and intentional organization offer a beautiful sensory-rich soothing environment for learning and living. 

"A Place that Promotes Strong Families: A place that supports the rights and responsibilities of parents and the development and well-being of families." 

We welcome families of all kinds eagerly partnering with them to care for their children. Inclusive practices leave room for parent participation, education, and ample opportunities to come together in community. 

"A Community of Caring: A place that encourages long, term, warm, meaningful relationships between adults and children who know and trust each other." 

The DNLC model supports continuity of care. This means that your child will have the same caregiver for the duration of their time with us. This promotes such deep relationships between the child, educarer, and family. 

"A Place for Learning Together: A warm, secure place that encourages ample responsive adult-child interactions, huge amounts of language and intellectual stimulation, great conversations, and many moments of undivided attention. "

Our collaborative emergent curriculum depends on adult engagement and connection to the ideas, questions, and discoveries of the children.  Unstructured time makes room for authentic relationships, meaningful conversation, long-term deep exploration of ideas, and one on one teacher-child connections. 

"A Safe Nurturing, Creative Environment Designed for Exploration and Learning: A safe place of high expectations that engage and challenge the mind and body of all ages of children; preparing them for success in school and life"

Both physical safety and emotional safety are a top priority. We know that young children need to take physical and emotional risks and we make room for this while offering safe parameters in which to explore those needs. Our accessible open-ended loose parts, art studio, and variety of imaginative play spaces, along with access to free and wild nature offer endless exploration and creative discovery. 

" A Place to Raise Competent, Responsible, and Compassionate Children: A place that encourages the development of responsibility, compassion, and community." 

Modeling respectful interactions, fostering deep relationships, engaging in restorative justice practices and an Ubuntu way of life contribute to our responsibility to the community, development of compassion, and the shared responsibility we have for caring for each other, the earth and all of its inhabitants. 

" A Great Place to Work: A place that supports active intelligence, competence, growth, collegiality, and the demanding emotional requirements of a complex and difficult job addressing the needs of children, families, community, and staff." 

We believe in life-long learning and life-long loving.  A joyous collaborative of passionate educators offers support and encouragement propelling each other forward toward our shared mission.  This is not just our work, this is our joy! 

" A Place In and Of the Wider World: A place connected to the natural world, the larger community, and the world beyond." 

We are so grateful to be located right in the middle of the wonderful community at Claggett Center. This allows the children to be active participants in the community around them. They will witness and at times engage in the processes of caring for the land, cooking the food, and collaborating on projects.  The campus offers abundant access to the natural world which will be explored daily. 


" A Place For Childhood: A great place to be a child for the one childhood he or she will have."  

And Thus, we have created a sacred place for childhood. A place where the most magical time in human life unfolds naturally. A place where childhood is respected, protected, understood, and met with marvel and delight. 

Greenman. J ( 2011) What kind of Place for Childcare in the 21st Century?  Exchange Magazine, 7-9. 

Environment Gallery
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