EXPLORE. LEARN. CREATE. GROW!
Nature School at Camp Albemarle is a faith based program with the goal of teaching children about God through the wonder of His Creation, establishing a connection to nature and getting children active outdoors.
All classes for the 2020-2021 school year are full.
Visit the Session Offerings tab to view the classes for the 2021-2022 school year and the Enrollment tab for registration information.
Half day morning preschool classes, half day afternoon homeschool classes and full day K-4th grade classes are offered.
Click here to schedule a tour of our school.
Visit our Facebook page Nature School at Camp Albemarle or e-mail Heather, Nature School Director, for the most up-to-date information.
4th Annual Spring Family Festival (Catapult Egg Launch) | Saturday, March 13th from 10am to 2pm
Sunset Yoga | Dates TBD
Full Moon Paddle Trips | Dates TBD
Little Explorers | Dates TBD
Our outdoor school launched in September 2016, born from a dream & a prayer. The school started as The Preschool at Camp Albemarle and in April 2018 changed to Nature School at Camp Albemarle to better reflect program offerings. Our program is unique in that we use the natural world to promote learning & growth in your child. Students spend the entire class outside, in all seasons.
- Sharing God’s love through His creation.
- Connecting students to nature to inspire appreciation for the natural world.
- Providing a safe environment to encourage exploration and learning.
- Promoting wellness through active play.
- Assisting students in their interactions with each other to promote cooperative learning and encourage problem solving.
- Developing activities that are focused on the individuality, abilities and interests of each student.
Camp Albemarle is a faith-based camp, located on 29 acres of open grass and wooded areas and is bordered by Bogue Sound. Nature School has an outdoor classroom as our main area but all of camp property is used for exploring and learning.
Nature School Staff
Heather Estep | Nature School Director | firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather serves Camp Albemarle as Nature School Director. Heather’s love for the ocean and passion for children brought her to North Carolina. After graduating from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina with her Bachelor’s in Marine Science and a double minor in Biology and Psychology, she worked as a Special Activities Instructor at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, before founding Nature School at Camp Albemarle. Heather was introduced to nature preschools while continuing her education at an Environmental Education conference and immediately knew she wanted to open one. She has completed various nature-based preschool trainings including the Nature Preschool Institute at Chippewa Nature Center, The Cedarsong Way Teacher Training, and professional development through The Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS), Project Learning Tree, Mindstretchers Academy and Antioch University. Heather is also certified in Conscious Discipline. Heather is blessed to combine her love for children, our planet, and God into one amazing job and is excited to get children active outdoors and surrounded by nature. She enjoys volunteering, hiking, watching sunrises and sunsets, and crafting.
Katie Andrews | Program Development Coordinator and Nature School Teacher – Eco-Explorers and Creative Writing & Art | email@example.com
Katie moved from NY a few years ago after many summers spent visiting her grandparents in Eastern NC and is happy to call Eastern NC home. She graduated from The State University of NY at Albany with a BA in English and is a certified nature-based teacher through The Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools. Katie has completed professional development through Mindstretchers Academy, Project Learning Tree, and Antioch University. She has over a decade’s worth of experience working with children of all ages and developmental abilities in diverse settings. Additionally, Katie is trained in Conscious Discipline. Katie is passionate about expanding nature-based educational opportunities beyond the preschool years. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors and camping with her family, reading, good coffee and baking bread.
Cheyenne Mendoza | Nature School Teacher – 5 Day Preschool and Sprouts | firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheyenne was born in the small town of Thomaston, Georgia but she grew up here on the Crystal Coast and considers both places home. She graduated from UNCW with her bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She enjoys learning new languages and is fluent in both Spanish and English. Cheyenne was a homeschool student for most of grade school and because of this, she had the opportunity to work with children in a teaching role from a young age. She has a deep love and appreciation for nature, God and teaching. She is so grateful to be able to work in an environment that encourages growth in all three. Cheyenne has completed professional development through ERAFANS and is certified in Conscious Discipline. In her free time, Cheyenne enjoys hiking and going on adventures with her family, reading, photography, learning the violin and volunteering in her church’s children’s ministry.
Chrissy Hassell | Nature School Teacher – 2 Day and 3 Day Lead Preschool Teacher | email@example.com
Kaliegh Blevins | Nature School Teacher – 2 Day and 3 Day Assistant Preschool Teacher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaliegh is newly arrived to NC by way of Kodiak, AK. She has spent the last several years teaching special education in Alaska and is an avid lover of the outdoors. Kaliegh loves that nature school is not like a typical classroom and was drawn to this mode of education because of how being outside in nature inspires her teaching and promotes feelings of wellness. Her goal is to learn more teaching strategies that will have her students hooked and wanting to learn more. Outside of work, she loves coffee, hiking, fishing and foraging with her family, as well as cooking and baking for family and friends.
Ann-Marie Robinson | Nature School Teacher – Kindergarten Teacher | email@example.com
Ann-Marie was born and raised in Carteret County. After graduating from West Carteret, she attended NC State earning a degree in Psychology while obtaining her Elementary Education Certification from Meredith College. After returning to Carteret County, she married her high school sweetheart and began her teaching career at Morehead Middle School teaching math. After her oldest daughter was born and Bogue Sound Elementary opened, she transferred to teach first grade and later kindergarten. Three years later, her youngest daughter was born. She is retiring after 20 years from Carteret County Schools to follow God’s direction to teach in a Christian-based setting. She is active in children’s ministry at her church and has taken children’s ministry classes through Campbell University, as well as completed nature-based professional development through ERAFANS. Ann-Marie is also certified in Conscious Discipline. Outside of work and ministry, she loves boating and kayaking here at home and camping in the mountains. She is excited to see where God is leading her in this new chapter of her life.
Jennifer Edwards | Nature School Teacher – Kindergarten Teacher Assistant | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer (Jenn) was born in Florida but has spent most of her life in Eastern NC. Her true calling is working with children and she has volunteered and trained with various faith-based organizations as well as with the Boy Scouts of America. Jenn is a certified nature-based teacher through ERAFANS and has completed professional development through Project Learning Tree and Mindstretchers Academy and is certified in Conscious Discipline. Jenn is most passionate about facilitating wonder-based play and making enduring connections with children, inspiring them to shine. She is deepening her understanding of the benefits of outdoor learning and is particularly interested in the connection between time spent outdoors and improved mental health. Outside of work, Jenn enjoys spending time with her family – her husband is a certified EMT, she has two sons, and she homeschools her youngest. As a family, they enjoy exploring, scouting, camping and volunteering in the community.
Jami Raeburn | Nature School Teacher – Eco-Explorers and Creative Writing & Art | email@example.com
Jami was born in Eastern NC and is thankful to live and work in the place she has always called home. As a child, she moved around quite a bit, providing her with experiences and adventures she draws upon when teaching. Jami has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Carolina University and has previously worked as an educator at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium and in the Carteret County Public School System for four years. Jami made the transition from traditional education to nature-based after watching her son thrive during his time at nature school. Jami has completed professional development through ERAFANS and is certified in Conscious Discipline. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, boating, and spending time with her family.
Leslie Bassaragh | Nature School Teacher – Sprouts | firstname.lastname@example.org
Leslie is originally from Brooklyn, NY. As a teen, her family moved to Miami, FL where she later joined the Air Force. Leslie completed four years in the Air Force overseas and stateside. She later returned to Miami where she met her husband while attending college. Her husband’s Marine Corps career had her living and working on her education degree in San Diego, Central Florida and finally here in Eastern NC, which they now call home with their children. Leslie’s love for children and passion for teaching brought her to Nature School. She loves guiding children as they learn and sharing in their “aha” moments, while providing a safe and loving environment where each child is valued and celebrated for their uniqueness. Leslie is fascinated by how a nature-based education encourages a child’s critical thinking skills and independence. She is actively working on increasing her naturalist knowledge by learning to identify local plant and wildlife and has completed professional development through ERAFANS. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, singing, cooking, pool time and entertaining.
Melisa Phifer | Nature School Teacher – STEM | email@example.com
Melisa grew up playing in the woods and streams of eastern Pennsylvania with her older brother, Kris. Throughout her adventures in New Mexico and the Southwest, Haiti, south Florida, and western North Carolina, she has kept playing outside: hiking, camping, kayak guiding, snowboarding, dog walking and equine yoga. She has taught high school science in the public school system, led Envirothon teams, litter sweeps, a Fairchild Challenge team, served in the Peace Corps in Haiti, as summer camp Environmental Education Director and generally encouraged and facilitated children and young adults getting outside and learning more about nature. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College and a Master’s degree in Education from Temple University. Melisa is currently pursuing her NC Environmental Education certification. She really enjoys a good campfire and accompanying stories and songs. Melisa and her daughter call Eastern NC home.
Jena Welsh | Nature School Teacher – STEM | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jena is a recent Eastern NC transplant, originally from North Dakota and am she is happy to call Eastern NC home, now. She grew up on a cattle ranch, so animals and the outdoors is something she’s very familiar with. Jena graduated from ND State University with a B.S. in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She spent her last two semesters working with children in the foster system and fell in love with working with kids. After moving to NC, Jena started working as a nanny. She’s very excited to see where God is leading her in this new chapter of life and so grateful to be able to work in an environment that encourages growth in both God and nature. Jena is also eager to explore how a nature-based education encourages a child’s learning. Outside of work, Jena enjoys relaxing on the beach, dogs, cooking and watching sunrises and sunsets.
Laurie Power | Nature School Teacher – Creative Writing and Art
Laurie has always loved working with children and spent all her teenage summers having fun as a preschool day camp counselor. She earned her BS from Allegheny College where she studied Biology and Studio Art. Originally from Ohio, she first lived in this area as an undergrad studying at Duke Marine Lab. After subsequently working and studying at marine labs around the country, she fell in love with informal education. Laurie has spent the last decade leading outreach programs for the aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores and public programming for the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Laurie has completed professional development through ERAFANS. She enjoys spending time with her family and pets, homeschooling her two kids (both are Nature School students), sewing and being outside and on the water as often as possible.
2021-2022 Session Offerings
Preschool classes and afternoon homeschool classes run September 7, 2021 to May 20, 2022
Kindergarten – 4th grade classes run August 23, 2021 to May 27, 2022
Preschool Class | 3 & 4 year old
- 2-day session: Tuesday and Thursday | 9am to 12pm | $170 per month | 3 & 4 year old mixed class
- 3-day session: Monday, Wednesday and Friday | 9am to 12pm | $245 per month | 3 & 4 year old mixed class
- 5-day session: Monday – Friday | 9am to 12pm | $385 per month | 4 year old class only
*Must be 3 on or before August 31, 2021 for the 2- day and 3- day sessions and 4 for the 5-day session*
*All preschool students must have independent bathroom skills*
Our preschool program uses an emergent curriculum to allow flexibility in activities focused on the children’s natural interests, curiosities and passions. Play is a crucial part of our program as it is a learning process that provides opportunities for cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills guides children on problem solving and assists with language development. The student to teacher ratio is 10:2. A $100 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment.
Sprouts Class | 5 & 6 year old
Tuesday and Thursday | 1pm to 4pm | $170 per month
*Must be 5 on or before August 31, 2021*
Sprouts class is geared towards homeschool families looking for a program to supplement learning at home. Critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork in an outdoor environment are the focuses of this class. Play, outdoor exploration, and nature and science concepts are implemented in the daily activities. The student to teacher ratio is 12:2. A $100 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment.
- 7 & 8 year old class: Tuesday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month
- 9, 10 & 11 year old class: Wednesday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month
- 12, 13 & 14 year old class: Thursday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month
*Must be the age of the class on or before August 31, 2021*
Eco-Explorers is geared toward homeschool families. These classes were formally Eco-Explorers, STEM and Creative Writing and Art. They are merging under the class name of Eco-Explorers, into once a week classes separated by age. Weekly projects could include aspects of nature writing and art and STEM topics, as well as emergent learning, hike and time for free play and nature exploration. The student to teacher ratio is 14:2. A $100 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment.
Lower School K-4th Grade
Monday through Friday | 8:30am to 2:30pm | $600 per month
*Must be 5 on or before August 31, 2021 to enroll in Kindergarten*
Lower School is Nature School’s private elementary school, offering grades K-4th for the 2021-2022 school year. Max class size is 12 students. NC state standards are met through a progressive, integrated and experiential curriculum that covers all academic subjects while nurturing the unique skills and abilities of each student and providing time for them to learn at their own pace. Our approach is rooted in daily nature immersion, capturing students’ inborn curiosity about the natural world to foster deep connections to God, nature and each other. Lower School will have access to an indoor space but class will take place predominantly outside. A $200 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment. Once a spot is confirmed as available, families have 1 month to complete the interview process. See the FAQ page on the website for more information on the interview process.
Enrollment Process for the 2021-2022 School Year
Click here for the registration form.
- Students currently enrolled in our program may register between January 26th and February 5th.
- Siblings of currently enrolled students, alumni students, siblings of alumni students and children of Camp Albemarle Staff may register between February 8th and February 12th.
- The public has between January 12th and February 17th at 5pm to turn in a registration form which will be entered in the registration lottery.
- No e-mail registration forms will be accepted. Forms may be turned in or mailed to Nature School, 156 Albemarle Drive, Newport, NC 28570.
- The Nature School at Camp Albemarle Lottery will take place on Thursday, February 18th at 10am.
- All registration forms received from the public on or before February 17th will be eligible for the lottery drawing. All applications received on February 18th or after will be enrolled on a first come first serve basis or placed on the waitlist if the class is full, in the order they are received.
- At least one member of the community (who is not staff, a Board member or relative of students at Nature School) will be present at the lottery to make sure that all procedures are conducted fairly and accurately.
- Each registration form from the public will receive a number. Numbers will be pulled one at a time and the student will be placed in the desired class. If the class is full, the student will be placed on the waitlist.
- Parents will be notified within one week of the lottery of their child’s placement in the program. Upon notification:
- Parents of a preschool student or homeschool student will have one week to turn in the non-refundable registration and supply fee. These families will also need to schedule a tour if they have not already toured the school. This is to ensure that the family has a good understanding of our program.
- Parents of a lower grades student (K-4th) will have one month to complete an interview. The interview process is not to turn a family away, but to be sure that our approach and school is a good fit for the family. We want the family to have a solid understanding of how their child will be learning and that it will look quite different. This also gives families an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. Families will have one week from the completed interview to turn in the non-refundable registration and supply fee.
- This registration process is the same for all classes including Preschool, Homeschool, and Private School classes.
- Students must meet the age requirement by August 31st of the upcoming school year. Age requirements will be specified on the registration form.
Questions about the 2021-2022 registration process can be directed to email@example.com
Classes Occur Outside, Rain or Shine
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” ~ Ranulph Fiennes
Ways Nature School students stay safe in all weather elements:
- Cold Days
- Wear warm layers, hats and mittens
- Eat warm snacks such as oatmeal or soup and drink hot chocolate or apple cider
- Participate in activities to keep the body moving
- Use heated rice bags to warm up hands
- Warm Days
- Drink lots of water
- Seek shade
- Participate in activities involving water (i.e. water table, water games)
- Have special treats such as all natural electrolyte drink or all natural frozen fruit pops
- Rainy and Windy Days
- Wear rain gear
- Utilize the pavilion for shelter
- Visit the forest (the trees provide protection from rain and wind)
An indoor space is available for inclement weather including but not limited to:
- Thunder and lightning
- Active tornado watch or warning
- High winds are present that could cause flying debris
- Weather conditions could result in children becoming overheated or excessively chilled
- Wind-chill factor and heat index will play a role in determining how long we stay outside
2 day preschool: $170/mo | 3 day preschool: $245/mo | 5 day preschool: $385/mo | Kindergarten: $475/mo | Sprouts: $165/mo | STEM/Eco-Explorers/Art & Writing: $100/mo
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Monday, August 31st – First Day of School
Monday, September 7th – Labor Day | No School for students or staff
Monday, October 12th – Teacher Workday | No school for students
Wednesday, November 11th – Veteran’s Day | No School for students or staff
Wednesday, November 25th – Friday, November 27th – Thanksgiving Break | No school for students or staff
Monday, December 21st – Friday, January 1st – Christmas Break | No school for students or staff
Monday, January 18th – MLK Jr. Day | No school for students or staff
Monday, February 15th – Teacher Workday | No school for students
Friday, April 2nd – Friday, April 9th – Spring Break | No school for students or staff
Tuesday, May 18th – Last day of class for Tuesday STEM
Wednesday, May 19th – Last day of class for Eco-Explorers and Wednesday STEM
Thursday, May 20th – Last day of TTH preschool, Sprouts and Art & Writing
Friday, May 21st – Last day of school for MWF and M-F preschool and Kindergarten
On days that the Carteret County Public Schools are delayed, Nature School will start at the following times. Our schedule is different from other schools in the area so please take special note of the start times. If you have a child in the public-school system and our start time will cause a conflict, please inform the Nature School Director.
- If there is a 1-hour delay preschool will start on time at 9am but Kindergarten will start at 9am.
- If there is a 2-hour delay preschool and Kindergarten will start at 10am.
- Preschool and Kindergarten will be cancelled if the Carteret County public schools are cancelled. In some cases, the weather clears, and it is safe for people to be on the road in the afternoon. If the school system cancels school but the roads are safe for Sprouts, Eco-Explorers, STEM and Art & Writing, class may be held. The Nature School Director will e-mail/text parents by 10am to let parents know if the afternoons classes will be in session for the day.
- If Carteret County Public Schools releases early for inclement weather, the morning session will continue until 12pm unless the release time for the public schools is before 12pm. In this case, parents will be notified of Nature Schools early release time. Parents with a child at a public school may pick up their Nature School student before 12pm. Afternoon classes will be cancelled if the public schools release early for inclement weather.
General Nature School Frequently Asked Questions
(Lower Grades Frequently Asked Questions are located at the end)
What Indoor Space is Available in Inclement Weather?
Our dining hall and craft cabin are available for inclement weather such as thunder and lightning, tornado watches or warnings, high winds that cause flying debris, and conditions that could result in children becoming overheated or excessively chilled.
What Should My Child Bring Each Day?
Your child should come dressed in closed-toe shoes and weather appropriate clothing each day. Layers and rain gear are very important! Your child should also bring a backpack with an extra set of clothes, water bottle, and sunscreen and bugspray.
Do You Provide Snack?
Nature School provides snack for the preschool classes. Students in the Kindergarten and afternoon homeschool classes should bring a nut-free, healthy snack from home.
Will My Child Get Dirty?
Yes! Some students choose not to get dirty but the majority of our students (especially our preschoolers) go home with dirt on their clothes and body. We encourage the students to jump in puddles and play in the dirt!
Do You Have Medical Staff on Duty?
No, we do not have medical staff on duty but all Nature School teachers are required to be up-to-date on their CPR and First Aid Certifications.
Do You Offer Early Drop Off or Late Pick Up?
No, we do not offer early drop off or late pick up options.
Do You Offer Classes During the Summer?
Nature School classes run September through May. Nature School staff lead summer camps for preschool and Kindergarten age children. Camp Albemarle offers summer camps for rising 1st – rising 12th graders. Visit the Camp Options tab at the very top of the page to view camp offerings.
Can I Come For A Tour?
Yes! Click here to schedule a tour.
Lower Grades (K-4th) Frequently Asked Questions
What are the school’s values and philosophies? What do you teach? What do students learn?
Please refer to our Mission and Philosophy page for detailed information on our values and approach. Our teachers use a combination of curriculums, emergent learning and project-based learning to meet NC standards for each grade.
What is the curriculum?
We use the content and phonics-based Core Knowledge curriculum for Language Arts, Social Studies and Science – this is a curriculum that builds year after year on what the child learns in each grade, gradually expanding their knowledge base while teaching skills. For Math, we use Wild Math, which is a nature-based, standards-aligned approach to teaching the state required math skills for each grade. As a faith-based school, our Christian beliefs are built into everything we do and building upon the tradition of Camp Albemarle, each class will participate in weekly Vespers.
How will you measure student progress?
We use a combination of student and class portfolios and weekly e-mails to update you on your child’s progress and learning growth throughout the year, as well as parent-teacher conferences twice a year or as needed. As a private school we are required to administer an end of year test every other year beginning in 1st grade. Normally, we will not administer tests or quizzes. For the end of year test, we will use an un-timed test, broken up over a series of days to make it less stressful and intimidating. Your child’s results will be available to you, but please note that we do not find tests to be an accurate assessment of every child’s learning progress. We will complete the tests as required in NC’s private school regulations and continue to measure student progress using a whole child approach, tracking the learning they do over the course of a year.
Who are the teachers?
We have a few positions we will be looking to fill for the 2021-2022 school year, but currently the teachers are:
- Kindergarten – Ann-Marie Robinson
- 1st Grade – Ms. Jami Raeburn & Ms. Katie Andrews
- 2nd Grade –
- 3rd & 4th Grade – Ms. Chrissy Hassell
You can visit our Staff Bio page for more information on each of these teachers.
Are you an accredited school?
We are in the process of becoming a certified school through the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education.
Will you offer middle and high school?
We hope our school will grow with the current 4th grade class, adding on a grade each year until we have K-12th. By the 2029-2030 school year we hope to offer all grades.
How large are the classes?
Our classes will have a max of 12 students. Kindergarten and 1st grade will both have a lead teacher and a teacher’s assistant. 2nd-4th will share an assistant who floats between classes to help with academic work.
How long will the school day be?
Our school day will run from 8:30am-2:30pm. Before school care is available at 8am and after school care is available until 6pm through our Alby After School program.
When does the school year begin and end and what holidays are observed?
The first day of school will be August 23, 2021 and the last day will be May 27, 2022. We will observe Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, MLK Jr. Day, Easter and have spring break. Full calendar details will be provided soon.
Does the school provide snacks or lunch?
No, students are required to bring a small, healthy, nut-free morning snack and lunch.
What is tuition?
Monthly tuition is $600 per month. The non-refundable registration fee is $200.
Are scholarships available?
Limited scholarships are available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
What is the application process?
After completing and submitting the registration forms, and an open spot is confirmed, families will have one month to complete the interview process. The interview process is not to turn a family away, but to be sure that our approach and school is a good fit for the family. We want the family to have a solid understanding of how their child will be learning and that it will look quite different. This also gives you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. The family will interview with at least two members of the Nature School staff. This may include but is not limited to the Nature School Director, the Program Development Coordinator and a K-4th grade teacher.
Do you have any more questions?
Please e-mail email@example.com with any other questions.
The growth of our program would not be possible without the support of our generous donors!
An anonymous donor
Archie Davis Construction
Beaufort Wine and Food
Carteret Community Foundation
Cherry Point Officers’ Spouses’ Club
First Presbyterian Church of Kinston Handymen
J.O. and Ruth Barbour Memorial Fund for Wildlife Habitat Conservation
Tommy Simpson Construction