It took three years for Karen and Kevin Hilton to find the right place to start Karen's dream school. Last year, they finally found the perfect farm property in Culleoka to locate both their family and her new preschool Fox Hill Nature School. Situated on eight acres, the main house was built in the 1800s, and the school has been built onto the large barn.
Fox Hill Nature School opened on September 18th, 2017 in a picturesque Middle Tennessee setting and a Pinterest-perfect learning environment for children ages 3-5.
A former elementary teacher in Williamson County and in North Carolina, Karen's motivation for creating the school began when she was looking for a preschool for her daughter who she says is very creative and would have thrived in this type of environment. "That's when I realized there was a need for something unique and different," she explained.
Her love for nature also played a major factor in the inspiration for the school and its design. "As a child, I spent a lot of time outdoors playing in the woods and coming up with imaginary play with my friends. I loved making mud pies, and that is why I incorporated a mud pie kitchen on the playground at Fox Hill Nature School," Karen said.
Karen's passion extends to animals, as well. She spent spent a month in Africa and went to the Kruger National Park for a safari, where she got to see elephants, cheetahs, warthogs and rhinos. She also works for the rescue group "Russle Rescue" group in Columbia and fosters dogs for them.
In addition to dogs, the Hiltons' farm is home to four horses, two mini donkeys, a standard donkey, four goats and "several mischievous chickens." The school children get to learn how to groom the mini donkeys, harvest eggs from the chicken coop and milk the goats, as well as use the milk to make goat milk soap.
The children are encouraged to get their hands dirty in the three gardens, which consist of a vegetable garden, flower garden and an herb garden. Not only do they help groom the gardens, harvest the veggies and plant the seeds, but they also get to take home what they grow. Parents may be surprised and delighted to find the likes of tomatoes, cucumbers, mini pumpkins, cantaloupe, parsley, lavender or mint in their child's backpack.
Other preschool activities include exploring in the woods, taking daily nature hikes, visiting the farm animals, going outside during the rain and playing in mud puddles. But, Karen says, they also do the same things a regular preschool does, such as art, music, open centers, and Kindergarten readiness.
And as a sidebar, here are a few fun tidbits about Karen and her husband who were both athletes. Karen ran track and was a body building competitor. Her hockey player husband, Kevin, was drafted by the Detroit Redwings and played for the New York Rangers minor division until 2001.
Registration for fall of 2018 will begin in February. Learn more at their website by clicking HERE or contact Karen Hilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 931-359-3103.