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: Tuesday STEM and Eco-Explorers. 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.

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.


Cathy Sassner | Nature School Teacher – 5 Day Preschool

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 Andrews | Nature School Teacher – 2 & 3 Day Preschool, Eco-Explorers, and Creative Writing & Art

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, seven 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.


Jenna Campbell | Nature School Teacher – 2 & 3 Day Preschool

Jenna was born in South Korea and raised in Pennsylvania. After finishing high school, Jenna attended Muhlenberg College where she graduated with a degree in Sociology. She has worked in the mental health field and in a child development center with infants through preschool aged children. Since college, she has moved around the Midwest and East Coast with her husband, whom is active duty military. They have one child, Jared. Jenna enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, Disney, camping and reading.

Taylor Roth | Nature School Teacher – 2 & 3 Day Preschool

Taylor joined our staff after watching her son have fun at Nature School this past year!  Taylor’s hometown is St. Augustine, FL where her immediate family resides. She grew up working in the sand at a local beach restaurant and surfing waves. Florida is also where she graduated college and started her family, having her son and daughter. The military brought them to the NC coast and they spend most of their free time playing sports and visiting museums and parks! Taylor’s passions are teaching outdoors, leading toddler music and movement classes, loving on dogs, and binge watching mini series. She loves hiking with her kids and spending time with them at the beach and then twice as long cleaning them up and getting them in the car.

Cheyenne Mendoza | Nature School Teacher – 2 & 3 Day Preschool and Sprouts

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 and is pursuing her Masters in Elementary Education. 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.  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.

Jennifer Edwards | Nature School Teacher – 5 Day Preschool

Jennifer (Jenn) was born in Florida but has spent most of her life in Eastern NC. She believes that her true calling is working with children and has volunteered and trained with various faith based organizations as well as with the Boy Scouts of America. Her husband is a certified EMT, she has two sons, and she homeschools her youngest. Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, exploring, scouting, camping and helping out in the community.

Leslie Bassaragh | Nature School Teacher – Sprouts

Leslie is originally from Brooklyn, NY. After her family moved to Miami, FL she finished high school and later joined the Air Force. Leslie did four years in the Air Force overseas and stateside. She later came back home 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 where they now call home with their children. Leslie’s love for children and passion for teaching brought her to Nature School. She loves spending time with her family and friends, singing, cooking, pool time and entertaining.

Amy Bartenfelder | Nature School Teacher – STEM

Amy recently graduated from UNC-Wilmington with her master’s in Marine Biology and relocated to the area to start her career. Her passion for the environment and involvement with student learning and mentorship led her to Nature School at Camp Albemarle. She hopes to use her research and education background to help others expand their appreciation for the world around them. In her free time, she enjoys spending time at the beach with her husband, reading books, and serving at her local church.

Melisa Paul | Nature School Teacher – STEM

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, and dog walking. She taught high school science in the public school system, led Envirothon teams, litter sweeps, a Fairchild Challenge team, 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 in Santa Fe, NM, and a Master’s degree in Education from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She really enjoys a good campfire and accompanying stories and songs. She served as the summer camp Director of Environmental Education and will be teaching STEM and doing Program Development at Nature School this fall. She lives here with her cousin and daughter.

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 at studying at marine labs around the country, she fell in love with informal education and led outreach programs for the Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores and public programming for the Maritime Museum in Beaufort.  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.

Jami Raeburn | Nature School Teacher – Eco-Explorers

Bio coming soon.

Keila Marroquin | Nature School Teacher – Kindergarten

Bio coming soon.





 2020-2021 Session Offerings coming soon!
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

2019-2020 School Year: E-mail the Nature School Director for information for the 2019-2020 school year .

2020-2021 School Year: Registration forms coming soon!

Pre-Lottery Process for the 2020-2021 School Year: 

  1. Students currently enrolled in our program must register between February 3rd 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 17th and February 28th at 5pm.
  3. The public will have between February 3rd 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 on Monday, March 2nd at 10am.
  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 2020-2021 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 preschool: $165/mo | 3 day preschool: $235/mo | 5 day preschool: $375/mo | Kindergarten: $475/mo | Sprouts: $165/mo | STEM/Eco-Explorers/Art & Writing: $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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156 Albemarle Dr
Newport, NC 28570