Imagine a world where all children are cared for, inspired by the natural world and comfortable in their own skin.
Folk Farm School
Due to the critical need in our community for holistic, land based, nurturing outdoor education, that especially encourages the inherent individuality, beauty and the irreplaceable experience of childhood in the natural world, we offer Folk Farm School: an emergent, child-led education community that supports children 2.5-9 years old. Folk Farm School is a developmentally appropriate education system inspired by Waldkindergartens and Forest Schools adapted to a farm ecosystem to inspire connection to land, food, culture and social systems, that is responsive to its community’s feedback.
Folk Farm operates as an outdoor based education program that organizes emergent learning into weekly single-skill camps. We choose a weekly skill as a focus based on what is alive in the education community and plan our curriculum, exploration, and investigation around that topic. Weekly single skills are responsive to student interest, support the development of life skills, and connected to the rhythms of the Earth.
Education in Nature
We move through the land listening with our deer ears, feeling with our raccoon paws, smelling with our coyote nose, looking with our owl eyes and tasting without horse lips. In the ritual of our day we have an opening and closing circle, these are whole group moments where we raise the expectation for all the children to be present in our community. Outside of these times and moments where we nourish in snack and lunch, we let the Earth and children guide us. The aim is to foster rich learning experiences, ecological literacy, and healthy living by connecting children to nature. This process is robust with thoughtful curricular provocations that are planned weekly by all teachers. Children are given the freedom, so long as they remain respectful of keeping themselves, their friends and the environment safe, to explore the land and lead the adults that hold the container of curiosity and critical thinking around them. Marissa Pulaski, the founder of Folk Farm, believes that education is a key component in the evolution of humanity, and is most impactful through the modality of nature based learning. As we build a healthy relationship to the Earth, we innately build qualities of resilience.
This model of education is inspired by the Waldkindergartens and Forest Schools of Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Finland, where children spend the early years of their education in entirely outdoor settings. All of Folk Farm classes are held outside, rain or shine. Encouraging an understanding of leadership, the students lead with their desires to spend time with farm animals, collect eggs, hike, harvest and cook from the gardens, sing, and create imaginative worlds for their minds to ignite. Practicing embodiment, clear speech and consistent responsibilities are pillars within this system.
Folk Farm children are learning to create their own activities and solve their own problems independently. Play can be the optimal learning zone for children, and by adding or removing tools, teachers ensure a child remains balanced in the growth of healthy risk. Experiencing healthy risk builds resiliency, provides opportunity to advance spatial awareness, and when given the freedom to, young children show clear abilities to manage risks and figure out their own limits. Here at Elk Run, the students have the space to find healthy channels for impulse control and deeply develop intrinsic motivation for learning and exploring the world. While maintaining this social emotional focused, nature-based, play-based, child-led culture of education we honor the families we serve and always take feedback around the individual goals of each caregiver and child. The parent teacher conference and intake form systems function as a guide for curriculum as much as Forest School Philosophy and the schools of thought each teacher brings into their practice. Academic desires from caregivers provide direct goals set by educators and opportunities to discuss developmental appropriateness.
Each week of our Fall, Winter and Spring semesters is like an individual week of camp that focuses on a single skill. Children discover, experiment, and hone their craft around various topics that connect to Earth stewardship, regenerative practices, community, creativity, and collaboration. We encourage and welcome families to sign up for a full semester experience so these weekly offerings can build upon one another, allowing the school community to deepen and strengthen.
Our 4-day per week Young Children Folk Farm class offers an Earth based, place based learning experience for young children ages 2.5 - 6 years. Children spend their days, Monday-Thursday from 9:00a-2:00p, freely exploring the land and creating learning opportunities in every moment of interaction with nature as our classroom. Trained Forest School educators guide the children as they explore relationships with self, others, and Earth and develop their passion for learning. Families can register for any combination of classes offered contingent on registration numbers. The Young Child program is hosted by Elk Run Farm.
Our 2-day per week Elder Children Folk Farm class offers an outdoor education setting for older children ages 6-9 years old. Focused on project based, experiential, emergent learning, this group dives deep into child led topics held by elementary educators on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00a - 2:00p. Families can register for any combination of classes offered contingent on registration numbers. The Elder Child program is hosted by Yellow Barn Farm.
Founder and Executive Director
As a graduate of Environmental Studies and the Psychology of Health and Healing at Naropa University, Marissa is passionate about igniting the innate human-earth connection within herself and others. A teacher with many hats, she created and oversees the continued vision of the Folk Farm School at Elk Run and Yellow Barn Farm, encouraging play and the importance of intuition for our youth. A trained Doula, folk herbalist, and cultural advocate, Marissa is driven to curate systemic change through the lens of environmental justice. She believes that recharging traditional culture begins with uplifting women and our right to be in relationship with earth based practices inside of equitable economic systems.
Folk Farm Director & Lead Teacher, Young Child Class
Certified as a Director with the Colorado Office of Early Childhood, Jessica has been teaching children ages 1-8 for seven years and has been a part of the Folk Farm Family since 2021. She received her B.S. in Human Development from the University of California San Diego and is a lifelong student of regenerative child raising practices. She believes that it is every adult's responsibility to hold safe and comfortable space for children to grow a more nourished and healthy world. She is honored to hold that space, embodying joyful, compassionate presence with children. Adopting to the child's perspective through understanding cognitive development she meets each Folk Farm student fully in meaningful relationships. She holds the container of developmentally appropriate education through growing authentic connection, building responsive systems, and ensuring quality care.
Assistant Teacher, Young Child Class
Philana attended Waldorf education from Kindergarten through High School, and continues to embrace the philosophies, woven with cycles and celebrations.
She began working in childcare at age 12, with lifetime service including being a Kindergarten teacher’s helper, working as a camp counselor for the Colorado Youth Program (outdoor education program), holding the position of Handwork and Arts teacher at the Trinity Waldorf School in Idaho, and volunteering as an English teacher at Casa Xalteva in Granada, Nicaragua.
She has studied at Front Range Community College, Sunrise Ranch, the Institute of Integrated Nutrition and the School of Ecstatic Awakening, with a consistent focus on holistic health, earth tending and creative expression. She studies Violin and Flute, and has enjoyed bringing her love of music to the students of Elk Run Farm School.
Sara June Keilty
Assistant Teacher, Young Child Class
Through walking with a sense of purposeful story, Sara June found her way to Folk Farm with peace, integrity, and remembrance. After 7 years of working with children in settings such as a kindergarten classroom, forest summer camp, and holistic family nannying, she started working at a local preschool in Boulder. She is certified as an Assistant Teacher through the Colorado Office of Early Childhood and studied Early Childhood Development and Psychology at Fairfield University. Sara’s draws from her engaged spirit is to teach the mystic and lore of being with the elements. She finds herself most authentic while outside of human-made walls and seeks to uplift the inert wisdom of each individual child, drawing from a natural world as well as their curiosities. She’s worked on organic gardens, permaculture demonstration sites, and led community art projects in nature. Now, bridging the two things important to her service, Sara June’s style of teaching foresters children’s intuition throughout changing phases to suit the developmental needs and connection to Earth.
Co-Lead Teacher, Elder Child Class
Rachael is an up-cycling artist, locavore chef, social permaculturalist, homesteader, and mountain athlete. Growing up in the high desert of Reno, NV, water sanctity, food security, and art for empowerment were at the forefront of her community and family values. She cultivates her lifelong mission of fostering a deeper connection to nature and all of its creatures through education, food, and expression. Drawing from a diverse collective of knowledge, she seeks to embody and support a framework for humanity to coexist harmoniously and restore our role as stewards of nature. She is active in the community as a freelance landscape gardener, Colorado licensed substitute teacher, Boulder Permaculture instructor, and mixed media artist.
Co-Lead Teacher, Elder Child Class
Having recently completed a M.S. in occupational therapy at Colorado State University, Emily is
passionate about supporting children as they develop skills, establish connections, and discover
their sense of self through outdoor risky play. As an outdoor enthusiast, she has a deep love
and respect for the land and utilizes the affordances of nature to enhance personal growth and
well-being. Emily has an array of childcare experience and recognizes the importance of
building rapport with each child while adhering to a strengths-based approach to allow children
to flourish in their environment.
"We have so many opportunities on the farm to weave in play based academics, counting eggs from the chicken coop, adding together the week’s egg supply, writing in our journals, exploring ecosystems, looking through the land with a magnifying glass, asking questions about the weather and seasons and so much more. Play enhances the formation of healthy neural systems and orients children towards cooperation instead of competition. When given the freedom to, young children show clear abilities to manage risks and figure out their own limits. This strengthens the flexibility in their neural systems to be able to meet moments of surprise with resilience and tools that help them feel capable. "
-Jessica Walters, Folk Farm Director & Young Child Lead Teacher
Folk Farm teachers develop emergent curriculum in their weekly meetings. Observing children’s interests becomes the basis for lesson planning, projects, and curriculum development. Children discover; teachers enhance. The child assumes the role of an explorer and becomes the director of personal learning. The teacher assumes the role of a co-learner, facilitator, and resource manager. The teacher studies the child through observation; the child studies the learning environment through exploratory play. The topics that emerge become thematic units that are used to develop academic skills and document learning benchmarks. Intrinsic motivation and choice infiltrates the depth and breadth of all learning. Authentic engagement and positive learning relationships develop when children volunteer their attention and commitment.
Folk Farm School is a single skill, outdoor based education program. Single skill exemption is defined as: A special school or class operated for a single skill-building purpose. Single skill building includes activities or instruction in one subject area and the development of an individual skill. Our curriculum is designed by teachers to focus on a weekly single skill, that emerges from the interests and needs of the group.
For more information you may contact the Colorado Department of Early Childhood, Child Care Licensing and Administration:
P 1.800.799.5876 or 303.866.5948 | F 303.866.4453
Want to join the Folk Family?
Click below to view our programs open for enrollment. For all questions and tour scheduling please contact our program Director, Jessica Walters, at email@example.com.