I am Amber Marsolek, the owner of Duluth Forest Kinderhaus. My journey here is the reason I work to inspire others like me to find their way into nature-based learning.
My teaching career began in a traditional kindergarten classroom.
My husband Seth and I live in Duluth with our three wonderfully active boys (Owen, 16; Alden, 14; Remington, 8) and our fluffy furball of a dog, Willow. We spend our warm months of the year playing [a lot of] baseball, traveling, relaxing at the cabin, mountain biking, and spending as much time as we can near the water. During the cooler months, you will find us rink ratting at the hockey rink, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and soaking it all in at the nearest sauna. As entrepreneurs, my husband and I value putting our talents, education, heart and soul into what we do every day; he with his civil survey/engineering business and competitive baseball program, and me with this nature school. Life challenges us in the best ways possible and we thrive on being continuous learners.
My journey to forest schooling is a winding road.
I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2005 with a concentration in Sociology/Elementary Education. Shortly thereafter, I accepted a paralegal position and after eight years in the legal field, knew I needed to get back into education. I subsequently earned my Graduate Teaching License in 2013 and Master of Science in Teaching in 2014 from St. Scholastica. I went on to teach kindergarten for several years and eventually landed myself in the role of a kindergarten nature enrichment teacher. Through that opportunity, I became completely engulfed by using nature as a teacher and was inspired to learn more about nature play and its necessary role in children's lives. Research into forest schooling furthered my passion as I realized that this style of education is best practice - a far cry from my experiences inside the classroom. Through my Masters research, it became very clear how the environment and experiences within, during the early childhood period, lay the groundwork for all the years ahead. Recognizing the need for this type of program at the primary level helped my vision of Kinderhaus become a reality.
During the 2016-17 school year, I facilitated the transition and teaching of Wandering Roots Nature School in Proctor, MN. Taking the opportunity to teach at the preschool level allowed me to deepen my knowledge and insight into the development leading up to the kindergarten year.
After a summer of serious construction and program development, Kinderhaus entered into its inaugural year in 2017. To be a business owner and an educator has been entirely more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. These little people remind me every day about the wonder and magic that is childhood and how fascinating the natural world is when we let it lead our way.
Kinderhaus enrolled 3-6 year olds in its forest school program since 2017. Each year brought new learning experiences for myself and our staff and allowed us to create small changes each year to improve our offerings. During our last two years, we reached forest immersion status by spending our entire mornings (4 hours) out in the forest, including daily campfires, sharing stories, singing, lots of uninterrupted nature play, constructing, practicing social skills - it has been such a joyful way to provide education!
Over the last eight years, I’ve had the unique and wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Duluth Nature Play Collaborative. This group consists of area nature preschool teachers and involved community members that seek to educate, inspire, connect, and advocate for nature play for young children in Duluth, MN. You can find the Collaborative on Facebook.