Meet our preschool team: Nicole Upchurch, Morgan Bryant & Betsy Bostian

First, we want to extend a very heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have supported Creekside Forest School. Last week we shared the many ways you can support our new nature school, including donating items on our wishlist, donating money to support essential items, volunteering, and spreading the word. You all showed up for us, and we are SO grateful. Creekside Forest School received approximately $4,550 in donations, including a number of very exciting items such as: a mud kitchen, child-size picnic tables, storage cabinets, a sand and water table, tarps, balls, ropes, gross motor play tools, a big parachute, measuring tapes, wool socks, backpack coolers, a sled, sunscreen, bug spray, rugs, pillows, snack tools, a puppet theater, art easels, and MORE!

Thanks to your support, we are feeling even more confident about just how amazing our school will be when it opens officially on  September 7! 

One of the biggest pieces to our preschool puzzle, of course, was hiring the amazing teachers who would be leading our classroom of Champions of Nature every day. We are very excited to introduce you to them. Please extend your warmest welcome to Lead Preschool Teacher Nicole Upchurch and Assistant Preschool Teacher Morgan Bryant. Guest Services Associate Betsy Bostian will also be joining the preschool team as a Preschool Specialist.

Nicole Upchurch

Lead Preschool Teacher (she/her/hers)

Nicole Upchurch began her path as an educator in 2001 in Idaho. She has experience instructing K-6 Spanish, Songwriting/Ukulele and Outdoor Education. After moving to Iowa with her family, she found her way into nature-based Early Childhood Education in 2009 while working with Taproot & Prairie Green School. She is a graduate of the Iowa Master Naturalist program. In addition, Nicole is a singer/songwriter, performing regularly with Awful Purdies and The Feralings. She lives in Tiffin with her husband, Benj and their three children Harper, Béla and Waelyn. Together they enjoy spending time outdoors with their Australian shepherd dog, Copper.

Morgan Bryant

Assistant Preschool Teacher (she/her/hers)

Morgan Bryant graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. She worked as a Recreation Specialist at UnityPoint St. Luke’s hospital in the youth behavioral health unit and as the Program Director of the Parent Education Consortium at Iowa State Extension and Outreach Linn County. She is passionate about supporting families in building healthy foundations for their children and will continue that work as the Assistant Teacher at Creekside Forest School. In her free time, Morgan enjoys reading historical fiction, spending time with family, practicing yoga, gardening, and going on walks in the mountains or woods.

Betsy Bostian

Preschool Specialist (she/her/hers)

Betsy Bostian is passionate about all things nature and has been working at the Nature Center since 2019 as a Guest Services Associate. Betsy has taken on an additional role as the Preschool Specialist for Creekside Forest School and is looking forward to sharing her outdoor knowledge with the students and staff.  In her free time she enjoys gardening, canning, fermenting, and changing her lawn into a native landscape. Betsy is an Iowa native and received her B.A. from Loras College.

More about Creekside Forest School

Creekside Forest School is a nature-based, independent preschool program for three- and four-year-old children. Children will spend 30-70% of their day outdoors learning in the context of nature. In addition to kindergarten readiness, Creekside Forest School also teaches positive peer play behaviors and “learning to learn” skills that increase success in future school experiences.

At Creekside Forest School, we use an Emergent Curriculum and the Flow Learning Sequence as our approach to teaching and learning, which ensures a balance between learning, skill-building, social development, and play. These two complementary methods serve children’s social, emotional, and physical needs while providing them with essential kindergarten readiness skills.

We believe:

  • In immersive outdoor learning.
  • Learning looks like play.
  • Curricula can be guided by the seasons and take place in all weather.
  • Teaching and learning start with inquiry and occur cyclically.
  • In being environmental stewards and living lightly on the earth.
  • Early childhood education fosters critical lifelong skills.
  • In celebrating the diversity of life.

Thank you again to all who have supported Creekside Forest School!

We wouldn’t be here without YOUR generosity. THANK YOU! If you’re interested in getting involved, you’re not too late! We will continue to add items to our wishlist as items are needed. You can also apply to volunteer, spread the word about our school, or, if you are interested in enrolling your child, you can learn more and apply here.
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