Outdoor Transitional Pre-K Harnesses the Power of Nature to Teach STEAM


Roots and Wings Pre-K School Teaches Kids Using STEAM Method 

By Susan Payne

Nestled between the Santa Monica mountains and the Pacific Ocean is a new outdoor transitional kindergarten rooted in nature-based philosophies, Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) and experimental learning.

Founded by Margarita Pagliai, Roots and Wings Transitional Kindergarten is the first multidimensional, outdoor transitional kindergarten in the heart of Pacific Palisades designed to prepare and transition children for kindergarten and continued development success thereafter. TK provides a perfect fit for children who are not ready for kindergarten, but outgrowing preschool. Pagliai founded Little Dolphins Preschool in her garage over 30 years ago, and then Seven Arrows 23 years ago. She still leads both schools and is thrilled to have this new offering, a TK at Aldersgate in the Palisades.

Roots and Wings emphasizes core tenets such as social emotional skills, problem solving, critical thinking and peer collaboration that contribute to a strong foundation of academic readiness, essential to lifelong success as global citizens.

In the last two years, Pagliai said social thinking and play are two experiences that children lost during the pandemic, which led to the opening of Roots and Wings, an outdoor classroom for nature exploration and learning through play.

“We’ve learned in the last two years, the importance of children being immersed in nature for sensory integration and to make sense of the world. Children are curious to learn how nature works and what lessons we can learn from nature, so our curriculum is completely based in scientific thinking.” said Pagliai.

Fostering social engagement and mindfulness in an age appropriate way, Pagliai said students will learn the skills of STEAM through observation and develop motor skills on a campus designed to inspire children to become stewards of the natural world around them.

Through the hands-on experience of developing an edible garden, students will learn how to harvest plants and vegetables and learn math and chemistry by cooking those ingredients. On the beachfront, they will learn how a wave becomes full of energy and powerful, and at the base of Temescal Canyon, the students will observe trees, birds and patterns of nature.

“Nature is the best way to make meaning in a very specific way. Everything is connected to what they are learning,” Pagliai said. “We are all about having the kids super connected with their own soul and being ready for kindergarten.”

Pagliai’s devotion to nature and adoration for children are one in the same, thanks to environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall, most known for her detailed and long-term research on chimpanzees in Tanzania.

“Jane came to our school 25 years ago and I asked her how I can teach my students to be scientists. She said to observe,” Pagliai said. “She came to spread conservation and inspire us to preserve the mountains and trees around us.”

Roots and Wings was developed around Goodall’s mission to create a world where we can live in harmony and nature. Fostering a passion for the outside world at a young age is an important step toward the efforts to conserve and protect the planet, said Pagliai.

In addition to its nature-based curriculum, children enrolled at Roots and Wings will gain meaningful exposure to traditional sports such as baseball, soccer, basketball and track and field outdoors, meant to help guide their sports preferences for years to come. PE classes will target gross and fine motor practices coupled with communication development.

Roots and Wings is accepting its first round of enrollment applications until February 10 for the 2022-23 school year. After that deadline, enrollment is ongoing until the 16 spots are filled.

During the application process, Roots and Wings’ Outbound Admission Team will coach parents on their kindergarten options and work closely in developing an individual learning plan for each child, adapting to the learning style of each child and modifying instruction in an array of tailored formats in order to reach each individual.

Roots and Wings is located on the Aldersgate Campus. Tours can be booked here. For more information, visit rootsandwingscenter.org.