Ana Athanasiu, parent
“Our family is so grateful for our daughter’s 2 years of participation in Leaping Lizards with Magdalena. Not only did she love the program but she came away with a great love of and respect for the natural world. She still conserves water, appreciates plants and animals and is an admirable hiker and camper for a 7 year old. We believe that Leaping Lizards enabled us to give her what is now a rare and precious opportunity–to spend her childhood hanging from trees, splashing in creeks and making up games with friends under a bridge. Thanks Magdalena for your special program.”
Jean Zambelli, parent
“Our daughter has been in Leaping Lizards for three years starting in the preschool program. Of all the activities she has to choose from, Leaping Lizards is the one after-school activity she would never dream of giving up. In addition to the great gift of spending unstructured time with child-initiated outdoor activity, she has learned a tremendous amount about plant and animal behavior and biology, conservation, and geology. This has really reinforced her innate interest in science. She enjoys being able to name native plants and animals wherever we go. The small groups offer a supportive environment that has allowed her to comfortably try new things in the varied surroundings and grow in strength and confidence.”
Kari Kirkpatrick, parent
“When discussing the various activities, camps, playgroups and classes my son has done in his seven years, I asked him which one was his favorite and without hesitation he replied: “Leaping Lizards!” He has always been a nature lover and Magdalena did a fabulous job of nurturing that love. This year my almost five year old daughter will get her chance to “leap” and we’re all really looking forward to it.”
Joan Phelan, retired Palo Alto elementary teacher
Joan P. taught kindergarten for nearly 30 years. Sadie F., the little girl mentioned in this testimonial, is now nine years old and was a student at Leaping Lizards Nature Awareness Preschool and also a student of Joan’s. This is what Joan writes: “I asked Sadie what she liked the most about Leaping Lizards. Her response was as dear as she is! She said “you have lots of time, lots of time, to be outside and enjoy being outside… .. lots of time.” She kept repeating that as if she was getting clearer and clearer, on such a deep level, about how important having lots of time is. With the frantic leaping from one standard to another, having to switch from one subject to another in school, having lots of time is getting more and more precious. Having time to deeply appreciate something, lots of time to get to know something on a deep level is so important – the basis for being able to spend lots of time learning something of interest.
When I visited Leaping Lizards I was amazed about how much you offer the children in an outdoor classroom. The first thing was how their stamina grew… Children soon realize they have built up their physical stamina by those long walks up and down hills. They are so proud of that! And that physical stamina grows into emotional stamina as they grow up.
They have time to play – and to act out story roles… the basis for later story writing in later grades… and they have had lots of experiences with different roles (I still remember that hike we took where the children took about 20 minutes to play out one of their favorite stories… actually a story they had created in their play). And you always bring a few books to read as they eat their snack. The children have a great deal of time to learn about each other. As they feel more and more part of the group, they also get to know each person in that group. You take time and put such an emphasis on that. I know as a kinder teacher that there is so little time in kindergarten these days to spend on social/emotional/ friendship skills. Your program is so nice and strong in that area.
You stop and read the signs – they look for letters and find words they know in the signs. They also find letters (especially y’s) in twigs and other things in nature. They learn these foundations of literacy in context… the most potent kind of learning. They learn a lot about nature, of course… but learning about nature IN nature is becoming more and more unusual. Even in the classroom,with the emphasis on learning the standards, learning about nature is becoming more and more a book/video experience… and what if the grade level doesn’t have any standards that relate to the outdoors? Would the children not even learn about ecology, or animal habitats, or animal behavior that year? I know first hand that the children who go to kindergarten from your program are very, very prepared for kindergarten! They were always my favorite children to have because they came with such a depth of knowledge about themselves, about others, and about nature. They were curious about the world (and curiosity is the basis for true learning!). They took such a joyful approach to learning, since they had experienced so much joy in learning in their outdoor classroom.
I think the greatest comment on your program is that I wish my own children had been able to be part of Leaping Lizards.”
David Smernoff, parent
“During our travels as parents the topic of preschool often comes up. As we describe the nature awareness hiking preschool idea we always get a WOW, that sounds really special. Without fail parents and other adults immediately understand how important it is to get kids outside to play and discover on their own. What they miss in these brief conversations is the amazing life experience that Leaping Lizards has gifted to our daughter and ourselves. Beyond the concept of letting children explore and connect with Nature is the incredibly talented founder who provides a rich and rewarding experience for children AND their parents. With compassion, caring and consistency the children are gently guided through the inevitable rough patches of 8 kids romping in the woods, they are allowed to discover and set their own pace, and to respect each other and all the living things in the world around them. During these precious early years we can think of no better way for our daughter to have spent her preschool years than romping in the woods with Magdalena and her fellow Leaping Lizards.”