Programs and Registration

Programs and Registration

Programming Update: Registration is open for Fall 2022 After-School Program, Sprouts, Home-School Program and All-Day Programs!

About Our Programs

Taproot offers school year and summer programs for children ages 3 to 17. Age guidelines for each camp are flexible; we would be happy to discuss your child’s individual needs and abilities to find the right program for them. Contact us at info@taprootnatureexperience.org or call 319.325.0695.

Activities in all of the programs vary from day to day and are highly dependent on the season, weather, group size, and children’s interests, but have included: hiking, sledding, shelter building, atl-atl throwing, yoga and mindfulness practice, bow making, fishing, found nature object art, creek wading, fire making, gold panning, mushroom hunting, cloud watching and quiet observation, vegetable and tree planting, creek exploration, fairy house building, pond canoeing and swimming with life-vests, owl pellet dissection, animal tracking, sand engineering, treasure hunting, native species identification, maple tapping, snow building, campfire tending and cooking, outdoor games, and much more. Read more about our educational philosophy here.

We go outside in all but the harshest weather–An important goal of the program is to help kids learn how to feel comfortable and safe in nature. We encourage parents to send their children with appropriate clothing, and we help kids learn how to wear it.

If dangerous weather prevents us from spending the day outdoors, we may go to the Natural History Museum, the Johnson County Historical Society Museum, the Office of the State Archaeologist, rec center gyms, the Iowa City Public Library, or the Water Treatment Facility, among other indoor locations.

Learn about financial aid and donations here.

School-Year Programs

Taproot offers programming during the school year for children ages 3 to 12 years

After-School Program for Ages 5-12

The 2022 Fall After-School Program happens Monday through Thursday, from September 12 to November 17. Kids sign up for one or more days for the entire session.

We will pick up children at some schools, and kids from other schools can be delivered to us. The day ends at 6 p.m. at Upper City Park in Iowa City.

Days and Cost (with/without school pick-up):

Mondays $360/315

Tuesdays $320/280

Wednesdays $360/315

Thursdays $450/400

Dates: Monday, September 12 to Thursday, November 17

Meeting Place: Upper City Park, Iowa City

Schools with Possible Taproot Pickup–Mann, Longfellow, Lincoln, Lemme, Lucas, Willowwind, Country School, Horn, Wickham, and maybe others.

The school pickup plan will depend on who wants to sign up. Please email Zac at info@taprootnatureexperience.org and let us know if you’re interested.

If we don’t do a pick-up at your child’s school, you can drop off your child by 3:30 p.m. at City Park, where we’ll pick them up for the short ride to the day’s destination. Destinations and activities will depend on the weather and other variables, but will always include playing, exploring, visiting, learning, and growing in an atmosphere of friendship and nature.

Home-School Program for Ages 5-12

Hours: 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Days and Dates: Mondays and Wednesdays, September 12 to November 16
Meeting Place: Upper City Park
Cost: $810 ($250 deposit to reserve spot)
Group Size: Six children with teacher Zac Wedemeyer

Along with self-guided exploration, imaginative and vigorous play, quiet observation and relaxation in nature, Taproot Homeschool Program also provides structured learning opportunities, such as tours of municipal facilities, volunteer work efforts, and visits with local scientists, artists, and visionaries. The HSP is often accompanied by Taproot dogs Wilson and Ozzie.

Taproot Homeschool Kids will have exposure to language, math, social studies, science, and other school subjects in spontaneous, real-world contexts; however, this is not an “academic” program. The Taproot Homeschool program is intended to support the academic learning endeavors provided by each homeschooling family’s own educational program.

Sprouts Mornings for Ages 3-5

We are overjoyed to offer the Sprouts Morning Nature Program again!

The Fall 2022 session runs from September 12 to November 17, and children may participate in as many days per week as they wish.

Days and Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Cost: $500/session for one day per week, with a $100 discount for each additional day per week.

Group Size: Eight children with two adult teachers

Meeting Place: Upper City Park, Iowa City

Laura Max, Alena Green, and Zac Wedemeyer are the main Sprouts teachers.

Sprouts ride in the “Lorax,” our 15-passenger Ford van. Families provide a car seat or booster, which can be installed each day or left in the van for the session.

The Sprouts Morning Program gives young children fun, quality time in nature with gentle, loving guidance. Sprouts spend the morning playing, exploring, dancing, conversing, and learning all sorts of stuff in an atmosphere of kindness, respect, friendship, and nature. Sprouts Teachers are experienced shepherds of young children. Sprouts practice using their own voices to express their feelings and needs, and listening to the feelings and needs of others. Daily destinations will depend on the weather and what’s happening in the natural world. Just like the other Taproot programs, Sprouts is outdoors in all but the harshest of weather, so weather-appropriate clothing is required (We don’t want kids to be miserable though, so we’re realistic and compassionate about things).

Potty awareness and control are very helpful for Sprouts but not absolutely required.

All-Day Programs for Ages 5-12

With Iowa City schools closed, kids can spend the day outside with Taproot friends. Destinations and activities will depend on the weather and who signs up, but you can be sure the day will be filled with nature and friendship.

Kids should wear weather-appropriate clothing and bring a water bottle, a hearty, nutritious lunch and tasty snacks.

2022 All-Day Program Dates:
Friday, April 22
Tuesday, May 3
Monday, October 3
Tuesday, October 4
Wednesday, October 5
Tuesday, November 8
Friday, November 18

Hours: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Meeting Place: Upper City Park, Iowa City
Cost: $85

All-Day Programs are vigorous and active, and spend the entire day outside.

Week-Long Summer Programs

Summer 2022 is history! We had an amazing time thanks to your wonderful children, our excellent staff, and our beautiful Mother Earth. Thank you to everyone who took part and made it happen.

Below is information about the summer camps for your reference. We will open registration for Summer 2023 in mid-December.

Sprouts: Ages 3–5 (Sprouts Camp will not be offered in 2022 because of COVID-19)

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Upper City Park. Parents install and remove their Sprout’s car seat each day or leave a seat in the van for the duration of the week

Group size: Eight children with two adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader

Tuition: $240/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Sprouts is designed to give young children quality time outdoors in natural settings, with adult supervision and gentle, knowledgeable guidance. At the beginning of each day, we gather the kids for Circle Time, where the group will say hello, introduce the day’s activity to the kids, and invite them to share what’s on their minds. We often incorporate an active game, yoga, dancing, songs, poems, or stories to this time. After Circle Time, we’ll leave Happy Hollow Park in the Taproot Van and travel to our nature destination of the day. Sprouts Camp gives little ones a great introduction in learning to use their own voice and communicate effectively and kindly with others.

Seedlings: Half-Day Camp for Ages 5–8

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. from June 6 to August 19, 2022.
Drop-off and Pick-up Location: Upper City Park
Group size: Twelve children with two adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader
Tuition: $240/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Seedling Campers visit a variety of natural areas around Iowa City over the course of the camp week. Self-guided and loosely-structured play, as well as an atmosphere of Unconditional Positive Regard, form the foundation of the Seedling Camp experience. Gentle and experienced teachers provide safety supervision and are tuned in to the constant spontaneous lessons and learning opportunities that arise. Kids bring water and snacks to fuel their work, but there is no sit-down lunch time. This half-day camp is fun and fast-paced, and leaves the afternoons free for resting or other summer activities.

Cambium: All-Day Camp for Ages 5–8

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. from June 21, 2021 to August 2, 2021
Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Happy Hollow Park unless otherwise arranged
Group size: Twelve children with two adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader
Tuition: $395/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Cambium Campers visit a variety of natural areas around Iowa City over the course of the camp week. Self-guided and loosely-structured play, as well as an atmosphere of Unconditional Positive Regard, form the foundation of the Cambium Camp experience. Gentle and experienced teachers provide safety supervision and are tuned in to the constant spontaneous lessons and learning opportunities that arise. Kids bring water, snacks, and a hearty lunch each day.

This full-day camp is a big job for young kids! Cambium Camp mixes periods of fast-paced fun with the rest and mindfulness necessary for kids to enjoy—and survive!—this strenuous, rewarding endeavor.

Payment and Refund Policies

Taproot requires a non-refundable deposit of $100 per camp week. This amount is included in the total tuition cost. Full payment for the session is due on the first day of your child’s camp.

After that, any refunds will be very limited. There will be no refunds for weather cancellations or if families choose to miss a day or need to miss days because of illness. If a large portion of a camp is cancelled because of COVID-19 or some other calamity, Zac will address refunds depending on the situation.

If you have extenuating circumstances that cause you to miss a camp, contact Zac at info@taprootnatureexperience.org or call 319.325.0695 to discuss your situation.

Saplings: All-Day Camp for Ages 8–12

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. from June 13 to August 19, 2022
Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Upper City Park
Group size: Eighteen children with three adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader
Tuition: $395/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Sapling Camp is a rich, nature-filled experience for children, guided by excellent teachers and surrounded by friendly kids in an atmosphere of Unconditional Positive Regard. Saplings endeavor on a 5-day odyssey of nature, friendship, and adventure around Iowa City and further afield. Each day we visit one or two destinations—Turkey Creek, Harvest Preserve, Lon Drake’s Place, Kent Park, Scattergood Farm, and others—for fishing, swimming, archery, tree-climbing, running games, mindful observation, ephemeral art, forest yoga, and general nature love. Additionally, we will take one or two longer field trips each week to Maquoketa Caves, Backbone, or Wildcat Den State Parks (details TBD). Kids bring water, snacks, and a hearty lunch each day.

Taproot Leadership Camp: Ages 12–18

When: Evening of Friday, June 3 to noon Saturday, June 11
Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Harvest Preserve Main Entrance
Group size: Eighteen kids and two adult Taproot teachers
Tuition: $1250 per child, which includes a $250 deposit at registration to reserve your child’s spot. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Leadership Camp is an 8-day sleep away camp. Participants bring a tent and we camp at Harvest Preserve and go on daily field trips to various activities and events. Because it takes place in Iowa City, it is possible to make some custom arrangements if kids have scheduling conflicts or if they have difficulty staying away from home. Contact Zac if you have questions.

TLC Junior Leader Commitment
TLC’ers return for at least one week later in the summer to serve as a Junior Leader in a younger-kids’ camp. These weeks will be scheduled in mid-spring. This is a very important component of the Leadership Camp experience, where Junior Leaders get an intense, authentic opportunity to practice their leadership skills, and provide a tremendously valuable service to Taproot Campers and Teachers. TLC’ers who particularly enjoy being a Junior Leader can sign up for multiple weeks. There are no additional fees for this part of the TLC program.

During TLC, campers:

  • Take a full-day 1st Aid/CPR course and Red Cross Heartsaver certification
  • Learn principles of Nonviolent Communication with an emphasis on working with younger children
  • Gain courage, teamwork, and problem-solving skills on the UI High Adventure Challenge Course
  • Take a day-long canoe/kayak trip on the Cedar River
  • Plan and prepare group meals and shop for food, being mindful of the impact of their spending choices
  • Begin each day with guided relaxation, yoga, trail running, or mindfulness sessions

Semi-structured campfire discussions will delve into topics such as what it means to be a leader and a friend, navigating the pressures and dangers of social media, responding to peer pressure and bullying, making wise choices, and environmental sustainability for teenagers. True to the Taproot philosophy, the camp will provide participants with time to relax and enjoy nature in structured and unstructured ways in between training sessions.

Taproot Leadership Camp has consistently been a life-changing experience for the participants. TLC gives young leaders tools to stay confident and courageous in the face of the increasing challenges of life as they grow older. They further develop their core principles and get to know their authentic selves. They get practice in how to uphold high standards of integrity and commitment. These lead to greater effectiveness, peace, and happiness in their own lives, as well as helping them become excellent and trustworthy examples for their peers and young admirers.

We have high standards for TLC participants and teachers. It’s a program where Unconditional Positive Regard is taken seriously and people are expected to be excellent to each other at all times. Kids should come to TLC excited to exercise and strengthen their kindness and integrity and be their authentic true selves. Participants will certainly learn about leadership and integrity during their week; however, TLC is not a “boot camp” style program where kids get firm redirection to a “better” path. Kids need to come into the TLC program ready and eager to cooperate and make a positive contribution.

Financial Aid

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 regular donations that allow us to offer these scholarships. If you would like to make a donation to support Taproot’s mission, you can do so here. Donations are tax deductible. In addition, all proceeds from the sale of Taproot merchandise supports financial aid for Taproot kids.