Taproot was founded in 2007 by Zac and Elesa Wedemeyer. The program serves several hundred families each year in the Iowa City area through diverse programming for children ages 3-18.
Taproot’s mission is to foster a generation of people who know, love, enjoy, and actively care for our earth and all of its citizens. After over 15 years and countless experiences, we have learned to trust the power of Nature.
The Benefits of Connection with Nature
Kids thrive when they get to spend time outside; after all, it’s our natural home! These days, though, kids have a more difficult time getting to the great outdoors. Our lifestyles are busy, and during the downtime, computers, video games, and television have a powerful attraction. We must make a conscious choice to make space for our children to explore and play in direct and friendly contact with the earth.
As global climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction threaten our planet’s future, our children are the best hope we have. Taproot programs place great emphasis on teaching our kids to be responsible world citizens by developing “systems thinking,” or seeing that everything in the world functions as a part of an expansive system of connections. We seek to provide experiences and discussions that teach children how they fit into those systems, and how their actions can have wide-ranging effects.
The quality time that Taproot kids spend in nature also benefits their attention, learning, and behavior, and it gives them the opportunity to strengthen their innate bonds with each other and our earthly home. We hope to help the children sink a deep and strong “taproot” into the soil of our planet, a root which will support and nourish them throughout their lives. In turn, we believe these children will grow into adults who love and respect their fellow human beings, and who will actively care for the Earth that sustains us.
Interpersonal Learning and Independence
During our forays into nature with the Taproot kids, we lead activities that emphasize guided exploration, unstructured play, and quiet observation and reflection. We go outside in all but the harshest weather, as an important goal of the program is to teach kids to feel comfortable and safe outdoors. We aim to build confidence and self-sufficiency in age-appropriate but impactful ways.
Time in nature, outside of the routine environments of the home and classroom, can be an exceptional opportunity to reinforce and grow values of respect, kindness, and cooperation. Taproot emphasizes civil and kind interaction, effective communication, peaceful problem-solving, and personal responsibility. We expect children in Taproot programs to be polite and considerate of others at all times, to learn and use each others’ names, and to choose their words carefully when communicating. The small size of Taproot groups allows our teachers to provide immediate and gentle guidance in these matters when conflicts arise.
Our curriculum is not rigid. We adapt the day’s activities to the unique needs and interests of each group of kids as they explore and play in a self-led way. Nature sends us a constant stream of lessons, and we let those lessons guide us.
We see amazing interactions between kids in the Taproot program. Their excitement and curiosity are contagious. Their learning is authentic. Their experiences are memorable.
We believe that every child deserves a chance to explore and learn from nature. If finances are a barrier for your child’s participation in Taproot, reach out to Zac to talk about financial assistance. We will work with you to come up with an affordable payment option. We will not turn a child away if their family cannot pay the tuition.
We are honored to receive donations that allow us to offer financial assistance for families, because we believe every child deserves to explore nature and learn its lessons.
If you’d like to help a child attend Taproot, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.