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. 


Program Information

2-day, 3-day, and 5-day morning preschool sessions & Kindergarten

For home school families: Sprouts Class, Eco-Explorers Class, STEM Club and Creative Writing and Art Class

All programs are held outside, rain or shine. E-mail the Nature School Director to schedule a tour of the school.

Visit our Facebook page Nature School at Camp Albemarle or e-mail Heather, Nature School Director, for the most up-to-date information.
  • The following classes are full for the 2019-2020 school year: T/TH and M-F Preschool Classes, Eco-Explorers and Wednesday STEM. E-mail the Nature School Director to be added to the waitlist.
  • Visit the Session Offerings tab to see the list of classes for the 2019-2020 school year and the Enrollment tab to review information on the registration process.
  • Click here for summer camp offerings!
  • Save the Date for our 3rd Annual Spring Family Festival! Click here for the most up-to-date information on the event.

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.


Program Philosophy
  • 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

Heather serves Camp Albemarle as Nature School Director. Heather’s love for the ocean and passion for children brought her to North Carolina in 2012. 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. 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, serving as a kids ministry teacher at her church and crafting.


Salla Wagner | Nature School Teacher

Salla comes to us by way of the Marine Corps, although collectively she has lived in North Carolina for nearly 12 years. Previously, Salla worked at an all girls elementary school, and acted as a nursery care coordinator and provider. She is a graduate of Liberty University, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education. Most recently, Salla earned a certificate as a Nature Based Teacher. She loves to volunteer in her daughters’ schools, travel with her family both near and far, and you will almost always find her with a cup of coffee.


Cathy Sassner | Nature School Teacher

Catherine (Cathy) was born and raised in New Jersey and later Florida with her family.  After finishing high school, Cathy attended the University of West Florida where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education.  She has taught Kindergarten and First Grade in South Carolina.  She has also worked with and cared for infants through elementary aged children.  Since college, she has moved around mostly on the east coast with her husband, whom is active duty military.  They have one child together.  Cathy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, helping out in her community and exploring the world around her.  She is blessed to be working with preschool children.


Katie Grasso | Nature School Teacher

Katie was born and raised in upstate NY and grew up visiting her grandparents in Eastern NC. She graduated from The State University of NY at Albany with a degree in English and has worked with children of all ages from the time she was a teen. Katie’s passion for the outdoors and nature education began after the birth of her daughter, six years ago. While in NY, Katie began hiking with her daughter who climbed her first mountain at the age of two. Katie enjoys exploring the outdoors, camping, reading, good coffee and traveling. She was thrilled to find The Nature School at Camp Albemarle for her daughter after moving to the area and is excited to be joining their staff.


Amy Nicholson | Nature School Teacher

Amy is originally from Virginia but thinks of Eastern NC as her second home. Her husband grew up here and she always loved visiting, so her and her husband are thrilled that the Coast Guard brought them back here after spending the past 5 years in Hawaii and Alaska. Amy grew up going to summer camps and working with kids, and it was during her last year of summer camp that she felt called to turn her love for kids into a career. She went on to major in Family & Child Development at Liberty University and have since used her gift with kids to be a camp counselor, toddler teacher, and after school program leader along with providing private child care for military families! Some of Amy’s favorite things to do include hanging out with her husband and golden retrievers at the beach, hiking, biking, and photography.

 2019-2020 Session Offerings

The following classes are full for the 2019-2020 school year: T/TH and M-F Preschool Classes, Eco-Explorers and Wednesday STEM. E-mail the Nature School Director to be added to the waitlist.

All classes run September 3, 2019 to May 22, 2020 and will follow the Carteret County Public School Calendar

Preschool Class | 3 & 4 year old

    • 2-day session: Tuesday and Thursday | 9am to 12pm | $165 per month | 3 & 4 year old mixed class
    • 3-day session: Monday, Wednesday and Friday | 9am to 12pm | $235 per month | 3 & 4 year old mixed class
    • 5-day session: Monday – Friday | 9am to 12pm | $375 per month | 4 year old class only

*Must be 3 on or before August 31, 2019 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. It guides children on problem solving and assists with language development. Letters, shapes, numbers and colors will be incorporated into our program but are not an aspect that is heavily focused on as in traditional preschools. The student to teacher ratio is 10:2. (There are 2 separate classes that run on MWF and 2 separate classes that run on TTH. Your child will be assigned a class before school starts.)

A $100 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment ($25 for registration and t-shirt and $75 for class supplies).


Kindergarten Class | 5 & 6 year old

Monday – Friday | 8:15am to 12:15pm | $475 per month

*Must be 5 on or before August 31, 2019*

This class is geared towards students that will be entering the public school system, but also appropriate for homeschool families. While outdoor exploration and play is a top priority of the class, students will spend roughly a quarter of the day indoors completing lessons. We will be using My Father’s World’s curriculum. The student to teacher ratio is 12:2.

A $175 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment ($25 for registration and t-shirt and $150 for curriculum and class supplies).


Sprouts Class | 5 & 6 year old

Tuesday and Thursday | 1pm to 4pm | $165 per month

*Must be 5 on or before August 31, 2019*

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 ($25 for registration and t-shirt and $75 for class supplies).


Eco – Explorers | 7 & 8 year old

Wednesday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month

*Must be 7 on or before August 31, 2019*

Eco-Explorers is a play-based introduction to STEM. This class is geared toward homeschool families to supplement learning at home and it provides a natural stepping stone from Sprouts to STEM Club. Class will take place in the outdoor classroom, as well as utilizing the rest of camp. Like Sprouts, play and outdoor exploration are an important part of the program, but more emphasis will be placed on introducing STEM concepts and completing projects. STEM concepts will be introduced using the natural world and students will have the opportunity to explore, investigate, research and implement their ideas.  The student to teacher ratio is 14:2.

A $75 non-refundable registration and supply fee is required at the time of enrollment ($25 for registration and t-shirt and $50 for class supplies).


STEM Club | 9 to 14 year old

Tuesday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month

Wednesday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month

*Must be 9 on or before August 31, 2019*

*Both sessions are the same and students may only enroll in one STEM Class*

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts will be integrated through the natural world to provide opportunities for students to explore problems, investigate and discuss possible solutions, and then research and implement their project plan. Project ideas will be presented to the students and they will also be able to create their own ideas. There will be occasional guest speakers and field trips. The student to teacher ratio is 16:2.

A $75 non-refundable registration fee is required at the time of enrollment ($25 for registration and t-shirt and $50 for class supplies).


Creative Writing and Art Class | 9 to 14 year old

Thursday | 1pm to 4pm | $100 per month

*Must be 9 on or before August 31, 2019*

Both writing and art skills will be explored weekly, with month-long projects allowing for students to be exposed to different mediums of art and writing, while honing their skills. Students will spend time each week exploring and observing nature and working on a year-long nature journal, weaving art and writing together. The nature journal will facilitate scientific learning about the local flora and fauna. The emergent curriculum will be flexible to allow for students’ passions and interests to be explored. The types of art and writing to be explored will include, but is not limited to: drawing, painting, sculpture, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and storytelling. Students must be able to read and write independently. The student to teacher ratio is 12:2.

A $75 non-refundable registration fee is required at the time of enrollment ($25 for registration and t-shirt and $50 for class supplies).


There is a 15% sibling discount on additional children.

Contact the Nature School Director for scholarship information.

Nature School at Camp Albemarle Registration Process

Click HERE for the registration form.

The 2019-2020 Lottery has already taken place. As of March 1, 2019 registration forms will be accepted on a first come first serve basis. Forms will not be accepted via e-mail.

Pre-Lottery Registration Process: 

  1. Students currently enrolled in our program must register between February 1st and February 14th at 5pm.
  2. Siblings of currently enrolled students, siblings of alumni students and children of Camp Albemarle Staff must register between February 15th and February 28th at 5pm.
  3. The public will have between February 1st and February 28th at 5pm to turn in a registration form which will be entered in the registration lottery.
  4. No e-mail registration forms will be accepted. Forms may be turned in or mailed to Nature School, 156 Albemarle Drive, Newport, NC 28570.

Lottery Process:

  1. The Nature School at Camp Albemarle Lottery will take place between March 1st and March 5th at Camp Albemarle. Date and time will be announced via the website and social media sites by February 1st.
  2. All registration forms received from the public in the month of February will be eligible for the lottery drawing. All applications received on March 1st 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Parents will be notified within one week of the lottery of their child’s placement in the program. Upon notification, parents have one week to submit the required non-refundable registration fee. If the registration fee is not received within one week of notification or a parent declines the spot, the first person on the waitlist will be contacted.

Important Notes:

  1. This registration process is the same for all classes including Preschool, Kindergarten, Sprouts, Eco-Explorers, STEM and Creative Writing and Art Class.
  2. 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 2019-2020 registration process can be directed to
Sample Daily Schedule

This schedule is for preschool classes. Sprouts Class and Kindergarten have similar schedules. 

“Teachable moments” are essential to learning and these moments can come at any time. Structure is also important for young children as they benefit from knowing what will happen next. We will maintain a loose schedule with predictable events throughout the day, such as group meeting and hike, to allow the teachable moments to be acted upon while still giving children the security of structure. The following is an example of a typical day schedule.

Arrival and Choice Time: Class will begin in our outdoor classroom and students will have 45 minutes of uninterrupted, unstructured play. Activities include but are not limited to blocks and building, construction play, art activities, sensory activities, science and discovery activities, reading and writing activities, dramatic play activities, math and manipulative activities, and music and movement activities.

Group Meeting: Students take part in conversations, engage in music and movement activities, listen to stories and discuss the day’s activities.

Snack: Teachers and students eat “family style” while telling stories and enjoying each other’s company.

Hike: Students take daily hikes to play and learn in different areas of Camp Albemarle.

Small Group: Students have the opportunity to go further in their learning through small group, adult directed activities.

Ending Group Meeting and Departure: Students assist with clean-up, reflect on the activities from the day, gather their belongings and say goodbye to their friends.  

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
Pay Tuition

2 day: $160/mo | 3 day: $230/mo | Sprouts: $160/mo | STEM: $100/mo


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Thank You!

The growth of our program would not be possible without the support of our generous donors!


An anonymous donor

Archie Davis Construction

Barbara Johnson

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

Josef-Ann Smith

Morris Plumbing

Tommy Simpson Construction


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Contact Us about our Nature School Program



156 Albemarle Dr
Newport, NC 28570