Always Learning & Growing

Outdoor Nature School
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The director and primary teacher, Carlene, has worked with children for the past twenty years, creating many meaningful relationships along the way. The name Always Learning and Growing was chosen with a purposeful intent as it really represents the philosophy of our programs.

Being open to learning from children while gently guiding their activities, Carlene’s teaching practice has grown to be focused on kindness, understanding, and empathy. Through her daily intentional interactions with children, Carlene encourages the growth of character as shown through respect of other humans and the natural world.

She completed her credential as a master teacher and site supervisor for preschool children in 2004.  Attending the forest kindergarten teacher training and certification intensive class at CedarSong nature school in Vashon Island, WA was an amazingly inspiring experience. Meeting Erin Kenny and other forest teachers committed to reconnecting children with nature was incredibly empowering. Carlene also has recent experience includes teaching Head Start Pre-K classes, teaching after school art classes and the Art in Action program in SF elementary schools, and owning a full day nature preschool program from 2010-2015.

Her passion for environmental education began during Carlene’s childhood while growing up in rural Massachusetts. She learned her first lessons in plant and animal identification and respect for nature while hiking through the forests and gardening with her father.  Swimming in nearby lakes, ice skating, and picking berries with her mother taught her a deep awareness of the ever changing environment.  Carlene is now grateful that she can provide opportunities for her own children to really develop a deep connection to the earth by prioritizing outdoor time and modeling respect for nature.

Carlene’s hobbies include hiking throughout the varied landscapes of the west, camping with family, visiting the beaches of the CA coast and photographing the beautiful nature adventures she has with her three children and husband.


  • -Climate Change Education, Science, and Action 24 hour Cornell University course, 2019
  • -Environmental Education 20 hour Cornell University course, 2018
  • -Forest Kindergarten Teacher Certification from Cedar Song Nature School, Vashon Island, WA – 2018
  • -Certificate in Child Development from City College of San Francisco, CA., 2004
  • -B.S. in Environmental Science from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA., 2002
  • -Site Supervisor and Master Teacher permit from CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing – 2005, 2013, 2018
  • -Many additional hours of professional development classes in a wide range of topics including dual language learning, social emotional development, literacy, and parent education.
  • Carlene and all teachers have current:
    -CPR/1st aid training
    -negative TB test
    -clear background checks


Teacher Nina is originally from Massachusetts and has experience in ESL and communication disorders.  She brings her wonderful, fun, creative energy to our SF forest school classes and nature camps.  We love to learn new songs with her as we explore the park.

Teacher Toni is a wonderful addition to our SF team.  She is the best story teller around and the kids enjoy her positive and patient attitude.  San Francisco has been her home for so many years and she loves to enjoy all the parks and beaches as she walks her dogs.  After teaching several different grade levels including preschool, Toni has been a children’s librarian in Mill Valley most recently.  Now as a forest school teacher, she gets to see how being outside and letting the children use their own ideas and creativity really opens their minds.

Teacher Alice is our newest teacher to join our SF team.  She is currently attended SFSU Master’s program in Speech, Language, and Hearing.  She is wonderfully empathic and loves to help children further their development while enjoying the outdoors.


Berkeley Teachers

Teacher Sierra

This will be my 1st year of teaching forest school but my 6th year of teaching young students overall. I love being a reading teacher and watching my students learn and grow. I believe that every mistake* is an attempt to learn and I always encourage students to share their experiences. 

I have a bachelors in liberal arts from CSU East Bay with a minor concentration in human development. I think humans are fascinating, especially the tiny ones! Learning should always be fun and inclusive for both teachers and students. Perhaps just a bit messy too!

I grew up right here in the Bay Area in San Francisco. I love all the natural beauty we have around the bay and think it’s great that we can utilize it in our classroom experience. I look forward to all the new faces I will be seeing this year and embarking on our learning adventure together!

Teacher Lisa

I have worked in the field of education for the past ten years, at both the preschool and elementary levels. I am passionate about instilling a love of learning in children and enjoy helping to foster their curiosity in nature. I believe that kids learn best through doing, and I think that it is very important for them to connect with their environment. In my free time I love to be outdoors, and to go camping/backpacking with my husband. 


Our curriculum is custom designed to capture the interest of children and to connect them to the natural world all around. We use an emergent curriculum which allows for child led learning with hints of the Waldorf appreciation for beauty and natural materials.

Cultivating life long characteristics in young students such as confidence, social skills, and resilience through interactions in nature is the ultimate goal of these outdoor programs.  The ability of a child’s brain to form new connections and critical thinking skills is enhanced when they have freedom from rigid schedules.  The resulting reduced stress load has many positive effects in a child’s mental health and behavior.

The curriculum is purposely open ended with the teachers acting as mentors and guiding the children’s chosen activities. There are so many learning opportunities for children while they express their interests, plan their own projects and cooperate as a team to accomplish their objectives.
The teachers act as facilitators and guide the children’s work when needed while allowing time for practice of independent skills. Over the course of the school year, children will learn to meet challenges and gain confidence in their own abilities.


At the heart of our school is building an appreciation for nature and connection to the natural world.  We strive for sustainability by incorporating recycled materials into projects and reusing whenever possible.  The children are outside for the duration of class everyday, and will be able to experience all the sensory input of a natural setting. This is a great chance for children to develop gross motor skills and to develop a physically strong and healthy body. The names of plants, flowers, animals, and insects are shared with the children and we talk about the ecology of the forest and the region.

Social skills and independence are another focus of our curriculum, as they are very important for your child’s future school success.

Communication between parents and teachers is valued and encouraged. Please do not hesitate to talk to me about anything, I am willing to work with you to ensure that your child’s experience is a positive one.


Always Learning and Growing was started in San Francisco in 2010 as a family childcare and preschool. For five years we were able to explore the numerous beautiful and peaceful places in GG park and took the children on field trips around the west side of the city.

Carlene has led children throughout the parks and kid friendly areas of the city over the last 14 years. In summer of 2015 we closed the childcare in order to travel. In early 2016 we returned to the bay area and led an after school art and nature class. After our travels we are so glad to be back home to enjoy the unique and beautiful city of San Francisco again and excited to use our extensive knowledge to open Always Learning and Growing outdoor forest school program.