Sprouts Art & Nature School is a micro-school in Champaign, IL providing part-day and full-day childcare programs.


Sprouts School is small!  We have chosen to significantly limit the size of the school programs to increase the sense of community within it. 


Sprouts has two classrooms and two teachers and a maximum enrollment of 20 students at one time. 

In the 2020-2021 school year, there is a total of 23 children in 17 families in all of Sprouts.


We feel that our small size creates the community feel of a home daycare with the advantages of a center. 

This very small group ensures that each family knows the other children (and even their families) of each other person at Sprouts.   The children develop strong bonds with one another, learn a multitude of social skills, and build lasting relationships. 

Having only two teachers means that the person you speak to at the start and end of the day is the same person that has been with your child all day.  Each child develops a strong attachment with each teacher, and there is no staff turnover or switching of classrooms with age. 

Having only two staff members means that we, the teachers, are also the directors that create curriculum, develop policies, and make all the decisions.  The people answering your text about your child’s lunch are the same people that you email with billing questions. 


Because of the unique set-up of our school, our size, and our daily activities, we take family-school fit very seriously (see more about our school enrollment here). 

We know that Sprouts is not the best fit for every family, and every family is not the best fit for Sprouts.  We strongly encourage every family to select a childcare and school that has similar values, philosophies, and activities to your own.

Our small community of families that value art and nature is a one-of-a-kind experience.


The Sprouts curriculum puts nature and art at the forefront of our play.

We spend our extended play periods in our outdoor and indoor environments with our carefully curated selection of toys, materials, and art supplies. Our materials bring nature to our inside play and art to our outside play.

This extra experience with nature leads to an appreciation and connection that puts responsibility squarely on our human shoulders. And the frequent interaction with our art materials and expressive projects leads to creativity born of use.

This, in balance with our philosophy, promotes creativity and responsibility at Sprouts. Children that experience extended free play in nature grow an appreciation that lasts a lifetime.


This curriculum was developed for Sprouts School by Caity & Ellen across five years of implementation. The seasons and natural events, the months of the year, and Midwest biomes all play into the activities and discussions, while still being flexible to accommodate the interests and social events of the group. Our outdoor exploration is supplemented with books, songs, and creative art projects that offer a deeper understanding of each natural event and focus.

Not every Nature event we study has non-fiction picture books for preschoolers, so we’re writing our own. Whimsical felt characters and photo backgrounds illustrate these short informational texts written in rhyming verse.  You can find our books on Amazon or order directly from Sprouts.

Log Jam; on the Sangamon

Slugs; Your Friend the Gastropod

seasons of study

Sprouts has three trimesters of study in our curriculum, each with a specific focus. 

In Fall, we focus on the nature right in front of us, in the Nature Playground.  This includes bugs & flowers, fruits & vegetables, mud, rocks, and even compost.  One of our favorite activities is assisting the Monarch caterpillars from our pollinator garden, by providing a safe space for metamorphosis. 

In Winter we take a step back to look at animals and habitats.  We learn about aquatic animals, birds, and mammals, trees, bodies of water, and ice and snow. 

Our third trimester is in Spring, where we take an even further step back to learn about the sun, the moon, the earth, the atmosphere, the water cycle, weather, pollution, recycling and reducing, and conservation. 


academic instruction

You may notice that there are several things that are not specifically covered in our Sprouts curriculum – namely academic skills. As Early Childhood Educators, we believe that childhood is a special time during which our core values take root. At no other point in life are humans so invested in the wonders of our Earth and at no other time do those wonders have the same impact. Learning about life through discovery of nature is the foundation of childhood – and there is plenty of time for academics later. You can read more about our methods in our philosophy.


The word ‘boredom’ has become a four-letter word in recent decades of childcare and parenting.

At Sprouts we attempt to embrace boredom.

We believe that children who are ‘bored’ are actually used to being overstimulated, so at Sprouts we have taken a step back from stimulation.

Instead of more structured activities, we provide free time. Instead of specific toys, we provide open-ended materials. And instead of more children, more technology, more academics, and more intensity, we provide a smaller group with no screens; less restrictions and more freedom.

We want children to experience the boredom that grows independence and imagination. We, as teachers, provide the environment, the curriculum, and the supervision. The children can do the rest.

free play

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But, for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.

-Fred Rogers

At Sprouts free play rules the day. We provide a minimum of 90 minutes of outdoor free play and 90 minutes of indoor free play each morning – with even more each afternoon. We allow children access to all of our open-ended toys and materials.

Many schools do not offer a truly free play experience – it can be very messy, get a little crazy, and takes time to develop – but at Sprouts we embrace it.

You might find at Sprouts: A group of children building a camping fire [a pile of blocks and sticks and rocks] near their camping tent [play silks and clips]. The children in the tent are reading books, tending to baby dolls, or playing a card game. Other children are in charge of cooking food over the fire and collecting supplies. Another child is making signs for safe use of the fire and camping site.

This type of elaborate play requires the uninterrupted time period and restriction-free use of open-ended toys and materials.



Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

-Albert Einstein

Extended free play bolsters imagination. While interacting over a longer period of time, children’s play becomes more elaborate and involved. Game rules become more intense, the social dialogue becomes more varied, and the ideas flow.

At Sprouts, all of the toys require imagination. We provide open-ended toys in natural materials that, with imagination, could become anything. The previous campfire of blocks becomes a nest of sticks, the tents become wings and the campsite has transformed into a bird family. Children collect worms and feed their babies. Others lay eggs and chirp loudly. Another child becomes a predatory hawk.

By allowing sufficient play time, children grow imagination.


Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.

-Rudolf Steiner

Extended free play requires independence. Children must feel successful in problem-solving, creativity, and basic life skills.

At Sprouts, we encourage children to make independent attempts of all kinds.

Children attempting to create a tent of silks and clips are not encumbered by adult concepts, they are discovering physics, practicing fine motor skills, designing a structure based on a purpose.

When they become frustrated with the process, they are learning perseverance, they are learning their limits, and then learning to ask for help. We always have children request help. Using words to request a specific action from another person is a very important skill, and practicing it, especially while dealing with intense emotions, is difficult for even adults.

This kind of independence, the confidence in your own skills and the ability to request assistance, is discovered and fostered within the freedom of expansive play.


Our daily schedule at Sprouts consists mainly of child-led free play in our indoor and outdoor classrooms.

We encourage children to actively explore their environments, both inside and out, and make creations, messes, and friends.

AM Preschool

  1. Free Play
  2. Project Activity
  3. Snack
  4. Free Play
  5. Story


Full Day Childcare

  1. Free Play
  2. Project Activity
  3. Snack
  4. Free Play
  5. Story
  6. Lunch
  7. Rest Time
  8. Snack
  9. Project Activity
  10. Free Play



  1. Snack
  2. Project Activity
  3. Free Play

We are currently enrolling for all classes for August 2021! Enroll now!

Tuition is based on child’s program, schedule, and age group. 

Tuition can be paid by month, semester, or year. 

Enrollment fees are assessed annually. 



7:30 am – 11:30 am  |  August – May

Includes AM snack & all diapers & wipes

Ages 24 m – 36 m : M – F Class : $560/m | MWF Class : $420/m  |  TuTh Class : $280/m

Ages 3 y – 5 y : M – F Class : $480/m | MWF Class : $360/m | TuTh Class : $240/m



7:00 am – 4:30 pm  |  August – May

Includes AM snack, lunch, PM snack, & all diapers & wipes

Ages 24 m – 36 m : M – F Class : $1000/m

Ages 3 y – 5 y : M – F Class : $900/m

Sprouts is not currently offering Full-Day Childcare on MWF or TuTh schedules. 



2:00 pm* – 4:30 pm  |  August – May

Includes PM Snack

Grades K – 5 : M – F Class : $415/m

Transportation provided from Westview Elementary School. 

Sprouts is not currently offering the After-School Program on MWF or TuTh schedules. 



Download 2021 – 2022 Sprouts School Tuition Information here.