FAMILY HANDBOOK

Curriculum

Olympic Nature Experience’s mission is to connect our community with nature and each other through inclusive and immersive outdoor experiences.

Our teachers bring many years of experience working in Early Childhood Education and Environmental Education and related fields. Staff are specially trained and First Aid/CPR certified and background checked.

We use the children’s passions, the natural environment and a positive guidance discipline to create a mix between spontaneous learning with what is happening today (rain, spring, earth worms, etc.) and structured activities that teach specific topics such as ecosystems, native plants, or the water cycle.

Our curriculum is made up of Many layers:

  • Nature Awareness – learning about plants, animals and places and learning how to care for them
  • Emotional Awareness – knowing how we feel and what we want or need to do about that, “Friend Power” (teamwork and leadership) which is caring for each other, asking for help, and including everyone
  • Resilience- knowing we are capable, being willing to try, even when things are hard
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking – being curious, asking questions, and finding solutions Through these roots of our curriculum, children grow upwards into the cognitive learning of age appropriate levels.
Challenging Play

As part of our curriculum, we encourage challenging play to build resilience, problem solving and physical and emotional health. We teach children how to internalize and move from a sense of personal safety while teaching them the rules and things to look for to determine safety.

Challenging play activities are age appropriate, teacher supervised and include:

  • Having fire in class
  • Learning wild edibles and medicinal plants (see our Wild Edibles Handbook)
  • Climbing trees, crossing streams and playing ankle deep in water
  • Hiking up and down steep trails and embankments
  • Using knives and tools (Skills classes only)
Inclusion, Equity and Diversity

We honor all people and show our commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity in all that we do. 

As part of our curriculum, children will read stories, play with tools and toys and discuss (at age appropriate levels): 

  1. People from different cultures around the world and within our own country.
  2. People with varying abilities and disabilities.
  3. People with different sexual orientations and gender expressions.
  4. People with different ideas, beliefs and experiences. 

Olympic Nature Experience does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.  

Communication

You are always welcome to visit your child’s camp and participate in activities. We ask that you just let your child’s teachers or our office know ahead of time so we can coordinate with you as we go on daily hikes. All adults in the classroom are required to follow COVID-19 safety measures.

Before school starts, we will host a Back to School Orientation. We recommend all families (even returning families) attend so they can learn new protocols and create supportive community.

Your teacher will provide their phone number on the first day of class, please put them into your phone. Our staff carries each child’s emergency contact and allergy info in their backpacks.

In an emergency, when late, or if you will be absent, contact BOTH of your teachers via text AND you can call or text our office (360) 461-7169 if no one responds in a timely manner. Please be respectful of our staff’s personal time outside of class and only text or call when urgent or class related and timely.

We make in class announcements on white boards before and after class. In addition we use email, newsletter, texts, phone, parent / teacher conferences, and a private Facebook group to communicate with enrolled families.

Parent / Teacher Check-Ins occur in late Fall and early Spring by email. We also welcome daily or weekly casual check-ins at pick up and drop off with our teachers. If you have larger concerns or questions, please schedule a time to meet with your child’s teacher outside of class.

Successful Transition to Outdoor School

Setting your child up for success

These components are critical to success at nature school:

  1. The right clothing and backpack packed correctly! See details in our clothing section below. Gear is also available to borrow through our gear library.
  2. Stay curious and excited about the weather. When the weather feels uncomfortable, stay curious with your child…”I wonder what you will do today in the rain?”, etc.
  3. Trust the staff. We care about our students and want them to have a good time. We will call you to come get them if they are not having a fun, relaxed day.
Transitioning Students

Sometimes being dropped off at school can be scary for young children. We are well trained and experienced in helping you and your child navigate this discomfort.

We support them by:

  • Strengthening the trust between you and your child: It can be hard to walk away from your child when they are upset because it can feel like you are breaking the trust and care you have together. However, it is exactly this trust with your child, that allows them to build new relationships with others and to be resilient to discomfort like being afraid or trying something new. We support this trusting relationship by offering them comfort, care, and reminding them of your love and support. When you return at the end of the day, just like you said you would, the trust is actually strengthened AND new skills are built.
  • We build trust with your family: We will call you if they are not happy in 20 minutes, we will text you a picture of your child when they are happy again so you can see for yourself they are having a good time, and we will make  a plan to care for your child that works for your family.
  • We build trust with your child: Children don’t understand the difference between being scared and being unsafe. By allowing them to experience their discomfort or fear in a SAFE new place with SAFE new people, and responding to their needs, they learn to expand their circles of comfort, trust, and emotional awareness. We allow them to express their feelings, respect their personal space or need for comfort, help them progress and understand their emotions, and trust their strength and resilience

Here are some ways you can set your child up for easier drop offs:

  • Be honest that you are leaving, and agree on a routine when you leave. Examples might be: “I will walk you to the back pack spot, give you one kiss and them I am leaving.”
  • Stick with the routine you agree on. It creates security for your child, if you stick with your agreed on routine, which creates assurance you will come back like you promised. If you hear your child upset after you leave, please do not come back. Your teacher will text when your child is happy again. You can always call or text if you are worried or wait nearby in your car out of sight.
  • Trust their emotions and behaviors are NOT disruptive. Emotional intelligence is part of our curriculum and a lot of amazing learning and peer support happens when students are having a hard time. Far from being a disruption, it’s an awesome opportunity. 
  • Talk with our staff to understand our ideas, philosophy and practices so you can feel comfortable about your decision to leave your child.

What to Bring

      1. A child-sized backpack large enough to hold all essentials listed below. Familiarizing your child with the contents of their backpack before school begins helps staff support your child better.
      2. A water bottle (filled with water 8-12oz of water) labeled with your child’s nam
      3. A plastic bag with a head to toe change of clothes that is seasonally appropriate: see section below.
      4. A substantial lunch with lots of proteins, veggies, grains and fruit. Pack enough food for them to eat lunch and a snack. Use small, light or easily portable containers as your child will carry lunch and water bottle in their backpack all day.
      5. For children wearing masks- bring two additional masks and let your teacher know your child will be wearing a mask for the day at drop off.
Pro Tips on packing the backpack!
  • Pack a reusable napkin for dirty hands or runny noses.
  • Check if your child can open and close their containers themselves and fit everything easily into their own backpacks. If not, reconsider before buying.
  • They will hike distances with their backpacks on, so minimize extra weight and unnecessary items like decorative outer casings or cold packs.
  • Please limit sugary foods, sweets or candy.
  • Backpacks don’t need to be specialized for outdoor use or even waterproof, that is why the clothes inside need to be in a plastic bag. Size is the most important factor, not too big, not too small…..just right. 
  • Check the backpack often so you can remove nature finds like rocks, and wet, dirty or out of season clothing.

Clothing

Clothing is essential for safety and fun at nature school. When your child is dressed properly, the weather becomes an adventure, rather than an obstacle. The MOST important pieces of clothing are highly durable rain gear and insulated waterproof boots.

To find all the items on our gear checklist and for help choosing the right gear for your kids, we have partnered with Outdoor School Shop – their website is Outdoor School Shop or shop our school gear page at:

Bases Covered Package (rain gear)

Supplemental Package (all the other layers!)

Founded by mothers who support and have children in Outdoor Learning programs, they will be a resource for you, answering any questions you may have regarding what to purchase, how to layer, and the differences between brands and types of gear. They can help us on where you need to spend the money and where you can economize. And also, they are giving our parents 15% off when you shop the items in our school store. Use CODE: OLYMPIC whenever you checkout.

We recommend you order clothing at the end of beginning of summer for guaranteed arrival by the start of school.

We have gear to lend! Contact our office to find out more about our gear library if your child is attending a camp and needs to borrow rain gear, winter clothing, or clothes that can get dirty.

Gear Pro Tips!

  • LABEL your child’s hats, gloves, mittens and coats!
  • Although 1 piece rain suits are cheaper they are often harder to use the restroom, especially for young children. We recommend 2 piece suits whenever financially feasible.
  • Pack rain gear in your child’s backpack all the time if they aren’t wearing it. It acts as a windproof and warming layer when it’s not raining.
  • Check the extra clothes in the plastic bag in their backpacks often, and make them seasonally appropriate (fleece pants and wool socks in the winter and light weight pants in the summer, etc.).
  • Fleece jammies are a great and inexpensive baselayer, they can often be found used.
  • For younger children, stretchy waste bands are easier and faster for using the restroom.
  • Layers, layers, layers! Many thin layers can be more comfortable than one thick layer and are more flexible for heat regulation. Try to avoid cotton.
  • Work with your child to find his/her right balance. Make sure clothes allow lots of movement.
  • Have your child try and even wear the clothes before they come to nature school. If your child won’t wear them because they are too thick, noisy or the “wrong color” you want to be able to return them before they get dirty.

Pick Up and Drop Off

Class starts at 9:30. Before then, teachers are setting up for the day. Please do not drop your child off early, even if teachers do not look busy to you.

Its no problem if you are late for drop off, but if you are more than 15 minutes late or absent please text both your teachers.  If you need to reach students or teachers before class ends, TEXT both teachers.

Upon arrival, sanitize your child’s hands with provided sanitizer and complete a COVID-19 health screening when bringing your child to school each day. 

Pick up time is 1:30. If you are running late, please text teachers. If you are more than 10 minutes late, we will begin to charge you for the additional care at $5 for each additional 5 minutes.

If you want more than just a couple of minutes to chat with families, we suggest you organize an offsite play date.

Green Point Specifics

Parking at Green Point is challenging, children must be accompanied by an adult in the parking lot without exception. Back into your spot whenever possible. Do not leave unattended children in the car unless strapped into a car seat. You must leave before teachers finish their break down as it is Private Property and we close the gate on our way out.

School Closures + Delays

We will close classes, shorten the school day, or occasionally move class location for the following reasons:

  • Snow or ice creating unsafe road or class conditions.
  • Winds are predicted above 20mph or with gusts above 30mph for the duration of class.
    • Whenever there are extended periods of heavy rain we will lower our sustained wind threshold to 12-15mph.
  • When temperatures, including wind chill factor drop below 20F for over an hour during class.
  • If thunder and lightning storms are predicted all day and shelter is not available class will be cancelled.
  • When air quality is unsafe for children and sensitive groups.

Our staff are up extra early on inclement weather days checking for alerts and monitoring the weather. They are making a decision based on safety for the students throughout the class day and safety for families in traveling to the class location. You will be notified by text no later than 8am the morning of class changes.

For snow and ice we will follow Sequim School District for Dungeness Rec Area and we follow BOTH Sequim and Port Angeles School District for Green Point to determine closures. You can follow along on the school districts websites as early as 6:30 AM.

In the event a single class or the entire school closes due to COVID-19 exposure, students will be offered virtual distance learning until they can return to school, refunds will not be given during this time.

We will NOT have classes on the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, on New Year’s day. We WILL have classes ALL other holidays (Federal or otherwise) unless otherwise stated. There will be a scheduled spring break. 

Food Allergies and Medication

If your child has dangerous allergies or otherwise requires medication you will need to provide a written note from your healthcare provider on how to administer medication or other allergy care. Arrange with your lead teacher that we have the necessary medication, documentation and the proper training to use it.

Students do not share food at school due to food allergies. If there is a severe food allergy in your child’s class, we will alert you at the beginning of the program. Please make every effort to refrain from packing these foods in your student’s lunch box.

Health & Wellness

General Practices: Please keep your child at home if they appear sick. You can help us reduce the spread of disease by teaching good hygiene habits at home. Remind your child to wash hands before eating, after using the toilet and after blowing her or his nose. Help your child learn to sneeze or cough into their elbow and blow their nose when needed.

Symptoms that indicate the need for your child to stay home: 

      • COVID-19 Related Symptoms: Fever of 100 degrees F or higher, diarrhea or vomiting, earache, headache, signs of irritability or confusion, sore throat, rash or fatigue that limits participation in daily activities. The child’s temperature must return to normal (98.6°F) for at least 24 hours before coming back to school. 
      • Vomiting: in the past 24 hours. 
      • Diarrhea: 2 or more watery stools in the past 24 hours or any bloody stool. 
      • Eye Discharge or Pink Eye (conjunctivitis): conjunctivitis is highly contagious. Students may only return to school when eyes are clear or after 24 hours of antibiotic treatment. 
      • Lice, Ringworm or Scabies: Children who are found to have lice will need to stay home until all lice and nits have been removed. Please let us know if your child has lice. Students with scabies may return after treatment. 
      • Skin Rash/Lesions: especially with fever or itching. 
      • Open or oozing sores: unless properly covered and 24 hours has passed since starting antibiotic treatment, if antibiotic treatment is necessary. 
      • Sick appearance, not feeling well, and/or not able to keep up with program activities. 

Toileting

It is our policy that children have largely independent bathroom skills.  Children will be using the “facili-trees” or “nature potty” while at school. This means they will pee in the bushes and dig a hole using backcountry toileting procedures for solid waste. 

If a child does not know how to use the nature potty, we will teach them. If a child needs to use the bathroom for solid waste, we will try to get them to the nearest toilet but are prepared to use the forest if a toilet is too far away or it becomes an “emergency” for the child.

If you have any concerns or questions, or would like help teaching your child how to use the facili-trees, we are happy to help. 

Code of Conduct

We strive for the success and inclusion of all our students. Children will receive a range of Positive Discipline guidance from staff that prioritize inclusion and social emotional learning.

If a dangerous or destructive behavior occurs in the school, staff will address and seek to resolve it directly with the child using positive discipline. Our policy is as follows:

  • Hurting another child or using materials in an unsafe way leads to being away from the group until the child is calm enough to rejoin the activity.
  • Abuse of an activity or object leads to a loss of the privilege of using that object or material for a specific length of time.
  • Repeated unprovoked hurting of another child, using objects as weapons to injure staff or children, or any behavior that compromises the teachers’ ability to maintain safe overview of the classroom for an extended period of time leads to a call to the parent(s) to come and take the child home.
  • Behavior that leads to injury of another child, a staff member or the destruction of an object will be detailed with an incident report and parents will be informed at the end of the day.
  • Serious injury of a child or staff member, 3 or more incident reports for similar behavior or habitual behavior that compromises the safety of the children, may lead to termination of enrollment.

Every effort will be made to help parents and children resolve difficulties that may arise in the program. Steps toward resolution include:

  • Scheduling a parent/teacher conference. 

  • Developing a written plan of action agreed upon by parent and teacher.
  • 
A referral to an outside agency if there seems to be developmental or behavioral concerns.
  • 
Possible withdrawal of child if a behavioral problem is so severe that no positive solution can be found.

What’s Best For Your Child: In all cases we want to do what is best for the children in our care. If we are not able to meet the needs of your child, we will be humble enough to acknowledge that so your child can get the care they deserve elsewhere. 

Developmental Screenings: Anyone can make a referral for a child for a developmental evaluation. All evaluations and services are provided at no cost to parents and parents must first approve them. A developmental screening doesn’t mean anything is wrong with a child, it may give you specific insight into what your child needs to thrive or how you can work with your child in a way that works for both of you. If you are interested in getting a developmental screening or have concerns about your child’s development, talk with your lead teacher.

Wild Edibles

We teach foraging and follow these rules. We will ONLY teach edibles that:

⦁    Are easy to identify

⦁    Have NO poisonous look a-likes

⦁    That are abundant and therefore hard to avoid 

⦁    That are listed on the Wild Edibles Handbook.

⦁    Children must check with a grown up EVERY time they eat a foraged edible (even if the plant has been identified correctly, there may be other dangers the child didn’t notice) and the grown up must know if the plant is safe to eat. 

⦁    Teach children the hazards and look alike plants so they can learn how to be safe (this helps for those times when you aren’t around).

Registration & Tuition Policies

Applying for Tuition Assistance

Olympic Nature Experience offers tuition assistance to help meet your family’s financial needs. We work hard to raise funds from community members and supporters so we can offer tuition assistance to families needing financial assistance.

To apply for tuition assistance, register your child for the program you are interested in and once registration is confirmed fill out an application in our Jovial Family Portal under Forms.   

Payments

Deposit: Deposits for the school year are equal to $100 per student enrolled per class. If you are unable to complete the school year for any reason we will keep your deposit. Deposits are due at the time of enrollment.

Tuition: Tuition will be due the 1st of the month. There will be a 5% late fee for payments made after the 5th of the month.

  • Check : We do not accept money at school. Please write a check with the child’s name in the note and mail to: Olympic Nature Experience, PO Box 688, Carlsborg, WA 98324
  • Online Banking: If you are enrolled for online banking with your bank institution, take advantage by paying for school fees. Once you schedule a payment, a check will be sent to us in the mail. Just go to Bill Pay and add Olympic Nature Experience as a payee.
  • Pay Online Credit Card/ACH:  All families will receive an e-mail invoice with a link to pay online by credit card/ACH through Jovial. ACH works like an old-fashioned paper check it is a transfer of funds directly from a family’s checking/savings account.
    • Families can choose to have new charges automatically applied to their Saved Payment Method. After the first payment is completed and a payment method is saved, Jovial will prompt families to set up AutoPay with an alert. If you opt-in, Jovial will send you a reminder 3 days before the payment is applied. Families can also opt in using the pull down menu that is available on the Saved Bank Account button in the Family Portal at any time.
Cancellation and Withdrawal Policies

Olympic Nature Experience cancellation/credit and transfer policies are based on our investment in staff, program planning and equipment purchases. We cannot recover our expenses if you cancel. If you discontinue your program in the middle of the school year, we are not able to fill your spot until the next open enrollment period without risking group cohesion and safety.

We are unable to pro-rate tuition or offer make-up days for any reason including illness, travel, or quarantine.

It is required that families fulfill the responsibilities outlined in this handbook. As problems arise, be sure to communicate with staff. When teachers are informed of the situation, most problems can be overcome as staff and families work together.

If you choose to cancel or leave a program for any reason:

  • 30 or more days prior to the program starting date you are entitled to a full refund.
  • For Early Learning and Nature Skills school year programs: we require that you give us a calendar month’s notice of your intention to leave the program. Tuition will be due for the remainder of the current calendar month plus the next calendar month. For example, if you withdraw on February 11, you will have to pay the remainder of February and all of March tuition.