Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool offers our students the best nature-based education possible with our highly-qualified teachers. Our teachers are passionate naturalists and dedicated educators, with strong backgrounds in natural resources and the outdoors and specializing in early-childhood education concepts and techniques.
Sarah Crim, Education Director and Teacher
Sarah has been dedicated to the environmental education of young children since 2009 when she co-founded Forest Friends, an award-winning preschool program offered at the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center. The program began after she searched for an experience for her own children that engaged them with the outdoor world. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Forestry from Auburn University and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at Auburn. She became inspired to begin a nature preschool after observing a nature preschool campus in her hometown of Nashville, TN. She has attended numerous conferences and workshops on nature-based education including working with Claire Warden at the Journeys into Nature Workshop. Sarah is first-aid certified and has had over fifteen years of experience working in the forest and over six years of professional experience working with children. She has served as the Education Director for the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center since October of 2017.
Sierra Patterson, Naturalist and Teacher
Sierra Patterson grew up in Orlando, Florida where her love of the outdoors and the natural environment started at a young age thanks to her nature-loving parents. As an adult in 2007, she moved to Auburn and met her husband who ignited her love for the mountains and forests of Alabama. They have spent the last 12 years hiking, camping, and backpacking all over the US and Alabama with their two children (now 17 and 4). She especially grew passionate about the National Forests and wilderness areas of Alabama and all there was to learn from the wetlands to the mountains and all of the livings things within them. While at home with a newborn in 2016, she was driven to bring her personal love of the outdoors to the Auburn community and founded the local Hike it Baby branch with the sole intention of getting little ones outside on trails in a safe and supportive environment. This venture led to working with Chewacla State Park and the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center to bring guided hikes and educational programs to children and parents about our local ecology. Sierra has spent the last year and a half training online and in person with Natural Start Alliance, Mindstretchers Academy, and other regional nature schools while also teaching our first class of Woodland Wonders preschoolers. She is a firm believer that play-based learning and time spent unencumbered in nature is undeniably beneficial to early childhood development. She thrilled to be able to spend her days immersed in nature with little learners as a teacher at Auburn’s first nature school! Sierra has completed hundreds of outdoor childcare and training hours, trained in Leave No Trace principles, and is certified in pediatric CPR and Wilderness First Aid.
Melanie Brown, Teacher
Melanie Brown is a lifetime lover of learning, and nature. At an early age she could have been considered a “Martha Stewart” of mud pies and stick soup. She was guilty of taking eggs from the fridge to make the pies better. She now prefers to use eggs in cookies, but is an avid gardener so is really still playing in the yard all the time. As the mother of seven children she has been working with and raising children for the last 30 years. She has run a small in-home preschool/daycare business and served as Children’s Music Chorister in her church for many years. She has been teaching theater classes for Auburn Area Community Theater since 2008. In addition to teaching classes, she is AACT’s Children’s Education Coordinator and Children’s Director. In addition, she is the founder of AACT Academy Summer Camps. While theater education is not based in Biology, or Botany, she believes teaching children to learn through “play”, to cooperate, collaborate and to communicate with confidence are universal, essential skills to have. With her passion for teaching children, and love of nature she is looking forward to teaching at the Woodland Wonder Nature Preschool and using phrases such as, “I am liken some lichen”, and “Dirt is what gets on your clothes, but soil is where things grow.”
Emily Howe, Teacher
Emily Howe is an Auburn University Graduate of the Early Childhood Education program. In the program she learned of the many benefits and joys of a child-led approach that is used at the Kreher Preserve with the Woodland Wonders program. The capacity students have to lead the way in learning amazes her. This leads to incredibly meaningful early experiences in learning when returned with tangible resources such as nature. She has taught in traditional settings, in summer enrichment programs, and served in underprivileged schools as a student at Auburn in Preschool, Kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd grade. She grew up in a nature loving family spending the majority of her childhood outdoors, exploring and enjoying all of beauty that comes from being outside. One of her favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Junior states beautifully “God is entirely and personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, in the field.” She believes this to be true and the wonder students show when faced with this energizes her teaching. Her experience as a nanny and babysitter over the past 13 years inspired her to pursue a career that partners with families and is fully engaged in childhood. She believes early childhood is an entirely unique and precious time in development and is honored to be a part if that process with each of her students and their families.
Jennifer Lolley, Outreach Administrator and Substitute Teacher
Jennifer has served as the Outreach Administrator for the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center since 2007. She has a passion for environmental education and has taught tens of thousands of children about the wonders of the outdoors. Her favorite student currently is her grandson. Jennifer has a background in biology but is talented in a wide variety of skills from engineering to wildlife care. She currently serves on the board of the Environmental Educators of Alabama and is first aid certified.