The Students of The Institutes live in the wild for a week.

Early Development – Kids Enjoy Nature!

We live in a time where children no longer live in bare feet from April to September, climb trees, build forts, or play capture the flag until their parents order them in at night. Kids now live in a virtual world. In our Early Development – Kids Enjoy Nature Program our children live in the wild for a week and learn all about the life around them!


Alan, a Senior Naturalist, armed with his camera and megaphone, welcomes visitors to The Pioneer Institute.


But it does not have to be that way.

For one week every year, the kids of our little school eat, sleep, and adventure in the woods.

The Eastern Box Turtle is a perennial favorite as he always makes an appearance right on time – Eivissa gives him a warm greeting

During the school year, our students study scientific classification. They study the Phyla, Classes, Orders, Families, Genera, and Species of the Animal and Plant Kingdoms.

In June each year, we are privileged to be able to live in the wild and study animals and plants in their natural surroundings. In this early development — kids enjoy nature program, children of all ages are surrounded by all types of animal and plant life to study and they love it!

Classification: Arthropoda, Insecta, Lepidoptera, Papilionidae, Papilio polyxenes


Teaching Natural History is easy and great fun with students who already know many animals and plants, and lots of interesting facts about them.


A crayfish is found in the creek and recorded

Our young naturalists keep a careful record each year of every species sighted and all botanical identifications made.

Our senior students and alumni set up camp on Sunday for the intermediate and junior students who will arrive first thing Monday morning.


Never a dull moment: Each minute of the day is used for search and discovery and enrichment

Our naturalists erect the tents, unload and organize the supplies for the week, and create the campfire for cooking and sing-alongs.



This year we were lucky to have one of our fathers, Mr. Sanderson, who instructed us in the ancient martial art of Shotokan.

After completing our Environmental and Personal Excellence Checklists to make sure that everything is in perfect order and ship-shape, we have our breakfast, and Natural History field study gets underway.

The Eastern Box Turtle is a perennial favorite as he always makes an appearance right on time – Eivissa gives him a warm greeting


The Wilderness Survival Team maintains the tents, builds and rebuilds the campfire, and provides instruction in First Aid and survival.


The Wildlife Preservation Team checks our Eastern Bluebird Box Trail and makes sure all is well. The Eastern Bluebird, once one of the most common birds here, was on the endangered species list due to loss of habitat.


Thousands of bird lovers have come to the rescue by building bluebird boxes (our young naturalists among them) and now the bluebird is coming back.


Our students added Milkweed plants to our wilderness property to help save the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch lays its eggs and feeds its larva exclusively on the Milkweed. As more and more cultivated lawns replace fields of wild Milkweed, the Monarch population is dwindling.

Recently, the National Wildlife Federation certified The Institutes campus in Wyndmoor, PA, for its chemical-free campus that feeds and shelters animals and plants.

Now our Wildlife Preservation Team is working on gaining certification for our Pioneer Institute property as well.


We have begun the process of identification of every major tree.


The Fine Arts Team enjoys making watercolor paintings of familiar and new species that are identified, and takes photos of the animal and plant life observed.


Each year a new banner is created that symbolizes what was learned that year.



Our chef, Esteban, prepares a delicious and nutritious meal.

The Basic Needs Team prepares breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and nutritious snacks before and after hiking. The menu this year was gluten- and dairy-free, and delicious!

Some special outings including fishing at a nearby lake, and even a night hike through the forest.

On Friday morning, the young students of our Early Development — Kids Enjoy Nature Program and their mothers and fathers arrived for the annual Natural History Tour. The tour is provided by the junior and intermediate students, supported by the fine coaching of the senior students.

This year’s Natural History Tour included learning about Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak; our Bluebird Preservation Project, wildflower identification, a study of amphibians at the frog pond, a study of animal tracks in the forest, the creation of a wilderness shelter, and how to identify venomous and non-venomous snakes. Then the students gathered around the fire to learn about fire safety.

The Eastern Box Turtle is a perennial favorite as he always makes an appearance right on time – Eivissa gives him a warm greeting


Finally, awards were presented to three new Junior Naturalists, one new Qualified Naturalist, and three new Junior Counselors. These awards reflect the knowledge gained, work completed, and problems solved, but most especially social excellence and maturity on the part of every naturalist. The students learn that real pleasure only comes when everyone is happy and winning.

The week came to an end, with thoughts and expectations about what we would see, do, and discover next year! Our early development — kids enjoy nature program is a hit!

Whether a child comes from the city or the suburbs, it does not take long for Mother Nature to work her magic. Within a few days every child is in love with the trees, the flowers, and the many creatures that they see. There are so many problem-solving opportunities in the wild that the child would not encounter anywhere else. Whether it is a one-hour hike in the woods or a two-week campout on a lake, every child should have a chance to experience the peace and beauty of the natural world. It is their birthright.


The oldest camper, Esteban, and the youngest, Ronald, celebrate a great week together.

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