The Living Tree is a place where children can gather together to participate in play and project-based learning, nature-immersion, and unique educational experiences that focus on life skills, supported every step of the way by loving and dedicated teachers.
We offer a nature-based & Waldorf-inspired Early Childhood education for 3K-5K students. We are community-centered and celebrate seasonal festivals that all families are welcome to attend.
Our campus is located in the historic Camp Whitcomb / Mason in Hartland, Wisconsin. A large private lodge serves as our home base from which we explore over 300 acres of rolling hills, forests, trails, wetlands and the shores of Lake Keesus.
Our Waldorf-inspired Early Childhood Program for 3K-5K is designed to provide a gentle and rich learning environment that connects the children to their loving teachers, their peers and the world around them. We meet the children where they are, allowing them to grow and flourish at their individual pace. This play-based education model mirrors the home, with the teacher being the loving authority that guides the children through their supportive daily rhythms.
The Living Tree is community-centered and began from grassroots efforts by parents seeking an alternative education model. We take pride in offering a calm, nurturing enviornment that allows children to spend the majority of their day outside in nature and learning through play. The care and love in which the children recieve from our teachers, combined with this unique and beautiful learning enviornment, is unparalleled.
Our Early Childhood program has a low student to teacher ratio of children to adults. This allows for exploration at each skill level while maintaining the social opportunities of a mixed-age class.
The children will be learning how to cooperate with others, gain confidence in their abilities and explore their growing independence in a safe, nurturing environment.
Our 2022-2023 Early Childhood program meets Monday - Friday, Full Days. We offer the following options: 3-day friends (Monday - Wednesday), 4-day friends (Monday - Thursday), 5-day friends (Monday - Friday), and 2-day friends (Thursday & Friday). We have space left to welcome your child for this year if you would like to join - contact us to inquire for more info! This will ensure a priority placement seat for the 2023-2024 school year.
Our 2023-2024 Early Childhood program will meet Monday - Thursday, Full Days. It will be a 4-day friends program.
Early Childhood Daily Rhythm
Monday - Friday, Full Days, September 6th - May 25th
- 8:30 Arrival, begin day with circle song and morning walk (Parents welcome to join for circle)
- 9:00 Morning snack and social time
- 9:30 Free play and planned activities for day (crafting, handwork, coloring/drawing, beeswax, painting, help with food prep/baking and life skills)
- 10:30 Story / puppet play
- 11:00 Lunch
- 11:45 Chores / clean up
- 12:00 Outdoor play
- 1:00 Nap time (lavender hand/foot rubs and lullabies)
- 2:30 Snack and social time followed by free play / activity
- 3:00 Pick up
Lead Teacher, Early Childhood (2022-2023)
Danika cared for and taught children from a young age as a babysitter and nanny before becoming a teacher. She enrolled in an Educational Psychology class as a 15-year-old, and has been working in classrooms ever since. Danika graduated from UW-Madison, earning a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood through Middle Childhood Education, her Teaching License, and a Minor in Health. After starting a family, she earned a Master of Science in Environmental Education from Concordia University.
Danika taught in both public and private schools starting in 2008, working in four and five-year-old kindergarten classrooms. She discovered the Waldorf methodology when her first daughter was born and registered for LifeWays childcare in Hartland. Both of her children later attended Prairie Hill Waldorf School where Danika worked as an Early Childhood & Grades Assistant, Food Preparer, and Summer Garden Coordinator & Teacher. After the girls’ graduated from Kindergarten at Prairie Hill, Danika went on to found an outdoor children’s education program at a local organic vegetable farm where kids were encouraged to celebrate the joys of nature and gardening.
Danika believes the first seven years of life are the most critical. She is passionate about Waldorf inspired learning environments and their healing effects.
Danika lives in a 110-year-old farm house in Stone Bank she slowly renovated over time with her husband and two middle school aged daughters. They have a small vegetable and flower garden along with laying hens. Her other hobbies are reading, acrylic painting, cycling, gardening, cooking, and traveling.
"Being outside in nature builds resiliency and reverence for the world. There is a coziness and warmth to the classroom both outside and inside with bundled clothing, storytelling, wholesome foods, candlelight, natural toys, like-minded parents, and beautiful festivals. The teacher is a graceful role model providing guidance with tender love and appreciation for each child; caring for them as their own including hair brushing, foot rubs, and singing. Children are simply allowed to be children and let their days unfold in a calm manner."
Assistant Teacher, Early Childhood (2022-2023)
We are located in the historic Camp Whitcomb / Mason in Hartland, Wisconsin. A large, private lodge serves as our home base from which we explore over 300 acres of rolling hills, forests, trails, wetlands and the shores of Lake Keesus.
This home base includes a main classroom with large windows, vaulted ceilings, a cozy natural fireplace and plenty of space to contain the children's abundant energy. Additional rooms include a three-season sun porch, multi-purpose rooms, nap house, full kitchen, large deck and easy access to the outdoors. Our indoor classroom is filled with open-ended toys made of natural materials, such as silk, wool, and wood. You will see, smell and feel the difference when inside our cozy classroom.
Our outdoor space is beautiful and serene. It allows for year-round exploration and skill development through the mud kitchen, sand box, tree stumps, play house, swings, and more. It is also common for the children to get to observe wildlife while outside.
We have worked diligently over the past few years to transform this space even further into a magical place for children to grow, feel inspired, and develop a deeper appreciation for nature.
Tuition & Applications:
The Living Tree is a growing parent-led nonprofit dedicated to providing a rich alternative education model for children. Our tuition costs are kept as low as possible through generous donations of time, money and resources by our community.
Our Admissions process begins with submitting an application and paying a $100/family application fee. This fee is non-refundable and goes to support our program by offsetting cost of tuition. After receiving your application and application fee we will be in touch about setting up a phone call to allow any questions you may have to be answered.
We will continue to accept applications and place students throughout the school year as space allows.
We look forward to welcoming you into our community where our children can grow together!
Applications for the 2023-2024 school year will open April 2023. Priority placement is given to current and wait-listed families.
Children admitted into the program must be fully potty trained, and at least 3 years 6 mo. of age, and no older than 5 years & 11 mo. as of Sept 1, 2023.
*Based on enrollment numbers and teacher assessment, the age requirement may go as low as 3 years of age.
Early Childhood (Monday - Thursday, 8:30 - 3, September 11th, 2023 - May 23, 2024)
Tuition includes all healthy organic lunches and snacks, supplies and materials.
4 Full Days (Monday - Thursday): $7,500 - paid in full or in monthly payments ($750.00 mo for 10 months)
* 2.5% credit card processing fee applies
APPLY NOW - Early Childhood Application (23-24 opens mid April)
Feel free to contact us with any questions:
If you would prefer to talk on the phone, please email us your contact info and someone will be in touch shortly.
Located at Steimke Lodge, Camp Whitcomb/Mason, W287N8677 Center Oak Rd, Hartland 53029