Expand Your Child’s Learning Opportunities!

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 is located at a forested site in May Township, formerly known as Wilder Forest. During spring semester of 2024, the school will temporarily operate out of the Manitou Education and Arts Center (Zephyr Theater) in downtown Stillwater, while a comprehensive maintenance and update plan is developed for buildings on our campus. During the 2023-24 school year, students have also enjoyed week-long visits to the 800-acre Manitou Fund Environmental Learning Center (Warner Nature Center), field trips, and special programs led by environmental education experts at Hamline University Center for Global Environmental Education, Earth Quest, and Wild Rivers Conservancy of the St. Croix and Namekagon.

River Grove is committed to place-based and outdoor learning and excited for the future!

“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 Manitou Education and Arts Center in Stillwater


The architectural firm MSR Design has developed a versatile space with light-filled spaces and natural, soothing color palettes. The exterior areas include green spaces, a large outdoor deck, and additional outdoor learning areas. Project managers worked 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.


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 also offers 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


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.


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!


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