Set on six beautiful acres in West Redding, CT, Westbrook offer a nature-based curriculum on a property featuring trails, streams, meadows and organic garden and natural playscapes, resulting in an education that builds physical and emotional resilience, moral awareness and the foundation required for intellectual growth.
Located in the northwest corner of Redding, clear, clean northern streams of the Saugatuck River wind their way through Westbrook’s land. With their beauty also comes an abundance of wildlife including crayfish, frogs, toads, and trout as well as great blue herons, turtles, and otters.
Our shallow streams are the perfect place for young children to safely explore and discover the wonders of the river. The children wade in the small stream, balancing on river stones, watching and learning the ways and movements of the crayfish and frogs. Occasionally we spy the great blue heron, patiently waiting for a fish.
A second, larger stream gives the children a chance to see, and sometimes catch and release, small fish using nets and even buckets. During a dry season, children step and crawl over exposed boulders, testing their balance and increasing their agility, while learning respect and appreciation for the river’s complexity. In the soft banks of the streams, we often discover and follow tracks made by visiting raccoons, opossums, rabbits, muskrats, and our very own mink!
Woods and Walking Trails:
Over the bridge the children walk each day to trails that wind through woodlands filled with beech, shagbark hickory, tulip, oak, and maple trees. Our beautiful trees give us shade and host a great variety of birds such as woodpeckers, bluebirds, chickadees, phoebes, and the occasional barred owl. Decomposing logs provide a of wildlife experiences from beetles in all stages of development to mushrooms of all variety and color. Our yurt, a meeting place and winter classroom, stands at the top of the hill next to our campfire site. Further down the trail, the children climb atop the giant Grandfather Rock to listen to a story and then take turns telling their own. Down by the river, children walk on top of a giant log, the perfect balance beam.
Our organic garden is as lovely as it is practical, with giant sunflowers, cosmos, marigolds, zinnias and calendula, and our herbs – basil, oregano, thyme, and tarragon, and rosemary bushes. From starting kale seedlings in winter to harvesting pumpkins in the fall, the children experience the full spectrum of growing their own food. They dig the dirt, pull the weeds, and water the plants each day as they watch them grow.
Official gardening begins in February when the children help to start the first seedling indoors. Peas, kale, and spinach, are transplanted before the last frost. The children plant peas around a teepee. Later, as the weather warms, the children plant seeds for lettuce, carrots and onions and direct seed carrots, and onions, and plant potatoes. The children hunt our strawberry patch for the tiny, dark red, delicious gems amidst thick green leaves. Soon blueberries are ripening followed by red and black raspberries. When we return in September, we plant a fall crop of kale and spinach. The children dig for potatoes and harvest squash and gourds.