Dodge Nature Preschool


The mission of Dodge Nature Preschool is to provide a premier quality early childhoodenvironment and education which meets children's developmental needs, while initiating them into a lifelong, meaningful relationship with the natural world.


At Dodge Nature Preschool, we believe that children are intrinsically motivated to learn. The teaching staff promotes learning by:

- Providing an environment which encourages discovery, experimentation, and the opportunity to see the results of one's actions.

- Developing activities to encourage growth based on children's abilities and interests.

- Encouraging problem-solving and reflection by asking open-ended questions and providing information in response to children's ideas, insights, and concerns.

- Assisting children in their interactions with each other and offering opportunities for cooperative learning.

- Providing mixed-age classes to give children the opportunity to learn from and teach each other,much as it would occur naturally in multiple child families.

- Appreciating the individuality of children and families and celebrating diversity.



Dodge Nature Preschool curriculum will encourage cognitive, social, emotional, creative, physical, and linguistic growth. Daily activities include:

- Natural science experiences
- Art Activities
- Music and movement
- Language Activities
- Block-building and carpentry
- Math and manipulative activities
- Dramatic play activities
- Large and small motor activities
- Cooking and food experiences
- Sensory activities
- Self-help and health activities
(ex. dressing oneself and hand washing)



Dodge Nature Preschool offers morning or afternoon classes with the option of adding extended care hours.  Our usual teacher to child ratio is 1:6. 

Morning Classes: 8:45 am - 11:30 am
Tuesday and Thursday
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Afternoon Classes: 12:45 pm - 3:30pm
Tuesday and Thursday
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
Monday through Friday ( mixed-age )

Monday - Friday Extended Care Programs
Morning Bunch: 8:00 am - 8:45 am
Lunch Bunch: 11:30 am - 12:45 pm



The Dodge Nature Preschool building is designed to provide the best possible preschool environment for young children. The welcoming entrance encourages family involvement andsmooth transitions from home to school. Spacious classrooms allow for the busy, active play of preschool children, with special attention toacoustics and temperature. Open-ended equipment and supplies encourage creative and cooperative learning. The large multipurpose room provides spaces for very active play. An outdoor play area features wooden climbing structures, a log cabin, and vegetable and flower gardens.



Dodge Nature Preschool is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), and have received a 4 Star Parent Aware Rating from DHS. We are also accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and have Nature Explore certified classrooms.





Tuesday/Thursday program:
$2,790 per year or $310 per month.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday program:
$3,690 peryear or $410 per month.

Monday through Friday program:
$5,355 per year or $595 per month.

Lunch Bunch Fee:
$50 per month for each day ofthe week childattends.

Morning Bunch Fee: 
$32 per month for each day of the week child attends.

A non-refundable payment equal to the monthly tuition is due one week after placement notification has been given to hold placement. This payment will be applied to the May 2014 tuition. This deposit is non-refundable regardless of child's attendance. There will be no reduction in monthly tuition for days missed or days that school is closed.



A scholarship fund is available to families who may need assistance with tuition. This may be ongoing support or temporary help due to a change in circumstances for a family. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please complete the scholarship application form and return it with your DNP enrollment application. A new request for scholarship will need to be made for each school year. Scholarship funds are made possible by parent fundraising, gifts from corporate donors, and earnings from the preschool endowment fund. Scholarship awards are granted to families who qualify until scholarship funds are no longer available. Funds are limited. Early application is recommended.


At Dodge Nature Preschool, early childhooddevelopment is at the core of our programs. Our staff has a strong background in education. They hold advanced degrees in various fields includingearly childhood education, psychology, environmental science, and art. They are certified in CPR and First Aid and have also completed numerous hours of in-service training to meet the requirements of NAEYC and state licensing. We frequently partner with local colleges and universities to place student interns and teachers in our classrooms. There are two teachers and one assistant teacher in each classroom. Our high teacher-to-student ratio of 3:18 allows for children's learning to take place in small, intimate groups both indoors and outdoors.


Kristin Carr,
Morning & Lunch Bunch, Substitute TeacherKristin has worked with children since high school and began teaching at Dodge Nature Preschool in 2008.  She is an alumni parent and volunteer. She has a B.A. in Biology with minors in chemistry and math from the University of Minnesota, Morris.  Kristin also has a M.Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota.   Kristin wears many hats here at Dodge.  She enjoys cooking, the outdoors, photography and spending time with her children. Email Kristin


Johannah Christensen,
Teacher, Willow Room

Johannah has worked with young children most of her life, both in and out of school settings. She gained experience in nature education through student teaching placements throughout her course work, including her student teaching experience at Dodge Nature Preschool in Spring 2016. Johannah is a recent graduate from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Email Johannah


Jennifer Elsen, Assistant Teacher, Oak Room, Lunch Bunch
Jennifer grew up learning from nature and enjoys sharing her appreciation with young children. She has earned a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Film at the University of St. Thomas and a M.Ed. in Natural Science and Environmental Education from Hamline University. Jennifer has worked in the Bloomington school district and at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Email Jennifer

Brenda Jerde,
Assistant Teacher, Spruce Room
Brenda has worked with children her whole life, starting as a child in her family’s daycare, as a nanny in her teens and working in the school district with special needs children. She taught children’s YMCA classes for nine years and has been a preschool teacher at Dodge since 2007. Brenda grew up just down the road from Dodge Nature Center and has been coming here since she was young. Email Brenda

Julie Nelson,
Teacher, Oak Room
She received her BA in Psychology from St. Olaf College, completed a Pre-K licensure program at the University of Minnesota and has completed additional graduate work in Education and Social Work. Her professional experiences include working as a teacher/director at Neighborhood House Child Care Center, working as an early intervention coordinator/teacher at Families Together Program of Lifetrack Resource, and teaching Pre-K in the St. Paul Public Schools. Julie teaches an online course through the Center for Early Education and Development, University of Minnesota and is also a published author. Email Julie   

Kristenza Nelson,
Teacher, Willow Room
Kristenza began teaching at Dodge Nature Preschool in 2008. Kristenza has a B.F.A. in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute and attended the University of Minnesota Master Gardener Core Program. She has completed her Child Development Associate through the National Council of Professional Recognition. A parent of two preschool alumni, Kristenza has worked extensively in gardening and as a childcare provider. She has also worked as an art and photography teacher for the Girl Scouts of Saint Croix Valley and for the YMCA. Email Kristenza

Wesley Nugteren,
Assistant Teacher, Spruce Room
Wes earned his B.S. Degree in Plant Science from South Dakota State University. He has spent the past 5 years teaching children and adults as a naturalist at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. He grew up on a South Dakota farm and takes pride in the soil-stained crevices of his fingertips. He believes in teaching a respect for nature that is born in love rather than fear. This means smelling the earth, touching the plants, and mindfully stepping off trail to take a closer look. Email Wesley


Kari Nusbaum,
Teacher, Spruce Room
Kari comes to us with 8 years of experience as an early childhood teacher. Her educational background includes a B.A. from Hamline in Communications and Psychology. She has a Masters from St. Kate’s in Early Childhood Education. Email Kari


Dani Porter Born,
Teacher, Spruce Room
Dani Porter Born has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and American Indian Studies, a Master of Education degree in Environmental Education and Natural Sciences, a Minnesota K-6 teaching license, and is a Minnesota Master Naturalist.  Dani taught first grade in St. Paul public schools and preschool nature classes for the city of Oakdale.  She has exhibited her nature photography and written and illustrated a children’s book about urban nature.  Dani is excited to combine her love for nature and working with young children at Dodge Nature Preschool. Email Dani


Joey Schoen,
Assistant Director/Teacher, Spruce Room
Joey has been a part of the team at Dodge Nature Preschool since 2001. She holds a B.A. in history from Macalester College and an M. Ed. in Early Childhood and early Childhood Special Education from the University of Minnesota. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Kate Davidson Tanner Award. Joey is involved with the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota and a regular part of a "Big Body Play" discussion group. Email Joey


Britney Stark,
Assistant Teacher, Oak Room
Britney began teaching at Dodge Nature Preschool in 2008. Britney is an alumni parent and was a volunteer at the preschool for three years. Britney holds a B.S. in Life Science, Natural Resources from the University of Minnesota. Britney enjoys being outside; her hobbies include sketching, photography, and running. Email Britney


Luzia Tavares,
Assistant Teacher, Willow Room
Luzia began her teaching career early as a teacher at her church. She graduated from the State University of Goias, Brazil and has 16 years of experience with kindergarten, preschool and special needs children. She is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. She has a love for nature and outdoor life. She is eager to share her knowledge and skills with children, families and colleagues. Email Luzia


Melissa Tobias,
Teacher, Oak Room
Melissa received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Wisconsin and her Masters at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA.  She has had experience developing curriculum for children K-8 about wellness and sustainability.  Curriculum was built around a school garden, greenhouse and schoolyard chickens.  Her most recent work was at an early childhood program in New Haven, Connecticut.  She has recently moved to the Twin Cities and is getting married in October. Email Melissa


Marty Watson,
Preschool Director
Marty has been the Dodge Nature Preschool Director since 2008. She has a M.S. in Education from Bank Street College in New York City, and comes to Dodge from Union Congregational Weekday Nursery School in New Jersey, where she acted as the school’s director and head teacher. While in this setting she worked with the Reggio Emilia approach. Work experiences in New Jersey included directing full day childcare, founding director or an afterschool program, and Head Start Supervisor. Marty has dedicated herself to teaching others for the past thirty years, and has an extensive background educating students of all ages. Her passion for nature comes from her years growing up on a farm in Western South Dakota.
Email Marty


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