Who We Are

Greetings Friend! 

My name is Kira, and I am so happy our paths have crossed. I am the director and lead teacher of Friend of the Woods Nature School, and my heart’s work is guiding kids to feel their sense of place in the natural world. Growing up, I always oriented myself by the trees, trails, and bodies of water around me. My home base was in Grand Haven, MI where I would spend hours exploring and fishing the bayous, inlets, and channels of the Grand River Basin. Climbing trees, spying on the creatures who made the land and water their home, and noticing how it felt to be more than just an observer to the natural world around me. To know and feel myself as an integral part of these ecosystems early on tangibly shaped the way I perceive the world. 

When I turned 18 I ventured northward to the truly magical lands of Marquette, Michigan. I completed college at Northern Michigan University where I received my Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education with minors in Science and Language Arts. In the midst of this time I also became a mother. Through these deeply transformational years I began orienting myself once again by the fierce waves of Lake Superior, the rushing waterfalls of the Dead River Basin, the resilient Red Cedars growing on cliffsides, the purposeful movements of Beavers and Pileated Woodpeckers, and the warmth of a loving and like-minded community. I once again, this time as an adult, found the peace of connection and fellowship with the natural world around me. 

In the years following, I have lived all over the lower peninsula, in Grand Rapids, Lake Orion, and now in Waterford where I have been growing roots and finding my way as a teacher and guide. I have served in the roles of an Outdoor Education teacher at C.A Frost Environmental Science Academy, a Lead Teacher for children ages 2-5 at Heartfelt Impressions Learning Center, and a GSRP Preschool Teacher. I received my CDA in Early Childhood Development, I’ve been an animal handler at the Marquette Children’s Museum, and have taught workshops on Positive Parenting Solutions for Families. I am also a Certified Forest School Teacher. I am now the proud mum of two wild kiddos named Fynn (8) and Jovie (3)  who help me to know and honor the curiosity, open heartedness, silliness, resilience, unconditional love, and uniqueness of children.

I spend most of my free time very actively; hiking, fishing, and foraging, tending my garden, skiing of all kinds, biking around town, climbing trees, and cruising on my longboard. My active lifestyle leads me to appreciate the slow quiet times as well. I love to read or listen to books, dabble on the guitar and banjo, practice meditation, share a nourishing meal, and soak up the magic of a roaring fire. 

All of these experiences have led me to become a passionate advocate for learning through exploration, play, and risk-taking in a classroom that goes beyond traditional schooling. I believe that empowering children to take the lead in their own learning by following their curiosity and intuition builds their confidence and self-trust early on, and is one of the most critical skills they can develop. In a classroom without walls, i have witnessed that learning happens organically as children engage with the cycles and systems in the natural world. There is endless opportunity for asking questions, taking risks, and creating both physical and imaginary handiwork. In the outdoors, a greater sense of present-moment awareness is invoked when relating to the land, water, and living things around us. By acknowledging and celebrating our interconnectedness with the Earth, I hope to cultivate a generational change in loving and preserving it.

Hello :) 

I’m Jen-  Cofounder and Administrator here at Friend of the Woods Nature School.  As a native Michigander, most of my fondest memories as a young child took place outside where I’d spend hours playing with my brother, cousins and neighbors… climbing the old apple tree, walking the dirt road foraging wild black raspberries with my mom, helping in the garden, playing in the neighbor’s cornfield, or camping with my family.  As I grew older, I recall in my pre-teen and teenage years seeking restitution outside when I needed the calming embrace that Mother Nature provided. 

Nowadays, some of my favorite things to do are gardening, foraging, hiking, yoga, crafting and spending time with my family, friends and especially my little sprouts- Emaline (4) and Nora (2). I’ve been fortunate to live in Alaska, Wisconsin, Southern California and also spent a season working at Yosemite National Park. I cherish the fond memories I have exploring those beautiful states and their majestic mountains but feel grateful to be raising children back in the Mitten with its four seasons, plentiful and diverse plant and animal species, ideal growing season and, of course, the Great Lakes!

I grew up, thankfully, before the time of addicting smartphones and social media.  It was a time before you were able to choose anything you wanted on TV and therefore were forced to get creative and imaginative when the only thing on was football. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the children of today. Our children will never know a time before an endless supply of indoor entertainment was available on multiples of screens around every corner.  This realization really hit home when I became a mother. With a society that relies so heavily on technology and industry, more and more people are disconnecting with the natural world. I fear what it could look like for our children’s children if we don’t take a stand now. If we don’t remember our roots and plant them deeply in our children. 

I’m so honored to share this passion and mission with Kira and to help reconnect our children with the Earth to encourage a more mindful and simpler way of life.