River Grove is a K-5, tuition-free public charter school in Washington County, MN. Our community-supported structure, project and nature-based focus, and small school environment nurture students’ social, developmental, and academic growth. Our talented teaching team creates unique learning experiences with hands-on, experiential curriculum that helps students to meet grade-level state standards while exploring and learning in amazing outdoor settings.
Founded in 2017, River Grove spent it’s first six years in the Wilder Forest in May Township. This year, we will move to the Zephyr Theater in downtown Stillwater, as part of an ongoing partnership with Manitou Fund. Students will begin the first several weeks of the 2023-24 school year with week-long visits to the 800-acre Manitou Fund Environmental Learning Center in May Township (formerly known as Warner Nature Center) in order to make best us of the center’s unique outdoor learning environment while the weather is warm and provide needed time to complete remodeling of the Zephyr property.
During the 2023-24 school year, River Grove students will also learn from other environmental education experts, including Hamline University Center for Global Environmental Education, Earth Quest, and Wild Rivers Conservancy of the St. Croix and Namekagon. River Grove remains committed to place-based and outdoor learning and excited for the opportunities that await!
“River Grove remains one of the Minnesota Guild’s most positive, affirming, and successful schools; this was most recently exemplified by your receiving of a five year renewal contract, only the second full contract ever offered by the Guild. Many schools do not receive a full five year contract given the high bar of illustrating positive performance in terms of academics, governance, school operations, and financial responsibility. The uniqueness of River Grove’s mission and place-based student support model, and your school community’s ability to meet its original mission and vision over the span of five years, demonstrates the commitment you have to your students, families and the community.”– Jim Zacchini, Executive Director of the Minnesota Guild (River Grove’s Charter School Authorizer)
ABOUT THE NEW STILLWATER LOCATION
A STUNNING NEW SPACE FOR RIVER GROVE!
The architectural firm MSR Design has developed a versatile space in the Stillwater location that will fit the school’s needs. Building interiors feature light-filled spaces with a natural, soothing color palette. The exterior areas will be reimagined with green spaces, a large outdoor deck, and additional outdoor learning spaces. Project managers are working closely with River Grove and Manitou Fund on everything from extensive safety and security planning to traffic flow, food service, furniture, outdoor space, classroom structure, storage, and more.
A design plan was presented at the May 31 Board of Directors meeting. CLICK HERE FOR MSR DESIGN’S PRESENTATION OF THE MANITOU FUND EDUCATION AND ARTS CENTER, FUTURE HOME OF RIVER GROVE SCHOOL.
NATURE COMES IN ALL SIZES!
While River Grove students have frequent access to the 800-acre Manitou Environmental Learning Center’s forests, prairies, bogs, and lakes, the new Stillwater property will also offer many opportunities for students to explore and learn. Science topics for River Grove students include:
- Naturally occurring insect ecosystems, also “bug boxes” and “bucket ponds”
- Animal adaptations in suburban and urban areas
- Bees and their importance to local gardens
- The science and benefits of suburban and urban trees (photosynthesis, carbon cycle, effects on citywide temperatures)
- Growing cycles—utilizing garden spaces or windowsill planters
- Weather patterns right above our heads
- Time and sun angles—building a sundial!
- Everyday encounters with nature, even at home
CONNECTING THE CLASSROOM TO REAL WORLD MATH AND LITERACY
There’s just something about it—children’s curiosity is sparked when they learn in nature. Students develop essential numeracy skills based on natural and local community interactions and go beyond traditional classrooms to find hands-on strategies for math exploration:
- Developing basic number sense, such as number recognition in nature (both symbols and quantities) and counting, and using natural manipulatives to learn concepts like how many, which is more, grouping, and breaking apart
- Shapes, lines, and spatial relationships all around us
- Patterns and relationships, including sorting and categorizing
- Measuring, comparing, and estimating
- Understanding time and temperature right outside our doors
- Financial literacy and money—local stores and partners
River Grove also uses outdoor spaces and community partnerships to cultivate nature- and place-inspired literacy. Natural objects and settings of all types inspire children to explore and express themselves. Lessons are as simple as letter recognition in nature, reading outside, and writing signs for a garden or as comprehensive as nature journaling and poems or research essays based on observations and experiences outdoors.
.WALKING-DISTANCE COLLABORATION BETWEEN SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY
The St. Croix Valley is home to a vast wealth of opportunity for historical and social science place-based education. When the community is the classroom, children become energized and gain a more concrete understanding of a topic. River Grove is walking distance from museums, community organizations, architectural ingenuities, historical sites and local businesses. And there are many more learning destinations a short bus ride away!