Since 2007, All Friends Nature School has provided children and families with remarkable opportunities to form nature connections and build community.
The mission of All Friends Nature School is to foster the development of the whole child – physical, cognitive, emotional and social – through use of a play, place, experiential and emergent curriculum. A natural environment offers the ideal setting wherein a child may grow and develop freely, with enthusiasm, confidence and excitement.
By fostering the development of self-regulation, self-direction, and self-reflection, we provide children with the educational foundation that will support them for the rest of their lives. We value the relationship between parents, teachers and our community and work to build these relationships so we can nurture the growth of children during this important developmental time.
About Our Teachers
Founder / Teacher
Susan, founder and lead teacher, grew up in a rural town in Virginia. From a young age she was grateful to have space to roam and explore. Some of her fondest memories were playing hide and seek in the forest, catching tadpoles and playing outside all day.
Attending college in a mountain town led her to an even deeper appreciation of nature. This love of nature continued on into her adult life taking her on many traveling adventures and bringing her to California. The biggest adventure was becoming a parent to two amazing boys. Susan has been working with children and families for the last 13 years.
Susan has a genuine appreciation for the outdoors and is passionate about teaching young people to have a meaningful connection to nature and the world around them. Susan is trained in “Growing Up Wild” an early childhood education program that builds on the children’s sense of wonder about the world around them. Susan also continued her education in Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training at the The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers.
Susan is an active board member of the California Association of Forest Schools (CAFS).
Acorn & Oak Class – Educator / Team Lead
Born and raised in London (UK), Gabby’s fondest memories are of long walks through her local parks, (Hampstead Heath and Kenwood), hiking trips to Devon, and beach days in Cornwall. From an early age, she loved the changing of the seasons; the life cycle of local chestnut trees, the flowers in full bloom at the Chelsea Flower Shower, and the quiet calm frost that descended on her suburb in the winter months. Gabby has been working with children for over 15 years.
She completed her Bachelor’s degree at Oxford Brookes University and earned a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Middlesex University. After several years in a North London elementary school, Gabby moved to New York City where she taught at an international school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Throughout her career, Gabby has been passionate about child-led learning through play, encouraging children to take learning into their own hands. Gabby and her family moved to San Diego in 2021 and joined the All Friends Nature School in the Summer of 2022!
Acorn Class – Educator
Nicole was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. Nicole studied child development at St. Paul College and worked for 4 years as a Lead Teacher for the Child Garden Montessori School before choosing the sunshine and ocean waves of San Diego. Nicole enjoys spending time in her Zen Garden as she has an affinity for plants and flowers with a background in floral design.
She has become like family to several families in San Diego working as a nanny. Nicole spends the majority of her time with the children outdoors, going on nature walks, learning and playing at the bay and beach. She has a special appreciation for Pre-K aged children due to their unwavering curiosity and wonder at the world around them.
Last year, Nicole published a children’s book, My Shiny Chakras, as an early guide to the chakra system. The book is written as a series of rhyming affirmations and features portraits of children she has known and cared for. She believes mindfulness is a critical part of enjoying the human experience and hopes to encourage it as a practice for young minds. Nicole is thrilled to be joining the team at All Friends Nature School!
Acorn Class – Educator
Katie was born and raised in San Diego. Growing up on sacred Kumeyaay land, she was grateful to have access to a variety of natural wonders. Her nature connection continues to deepen through the conscious exploration of mother earth from the majestic pacific ocean, to chaparral-covered canyons to alpine mountains and desert wilderness. Katie has had the privilege of being a respectful and loving guide in early childhood education for over eight years.
As a partner in learning, she strives to support children in their development of a strong sense of self and a love of learning by passionately supporting their creativity and imagination. Her experience working in outdoor nature early education has sharpened her skills of intentionally guiding children while respecting their personal freedom and natural ability to learn. From climbing trees to crossing creek beds, by trusting children while ensuring their safety she is able to provide a safe and warm environment for children to learn and grow. As a musician, she further fulfills her mission to keep the magic and wonder of childhood alive through music and movement. Katie utilizes the art of creative storytelling to transmute knowledge and information in a way that is exciting and enjoyable for young children.
Katie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development at Point Loma Nazarene University and an Associate’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences at Grossmont College. In addition, she holds a Child Development Master Teacher permit authorized by the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing.
Sprouts Class – Educator
Alyssa is a San Diego native who has had the pleasure of spending significant time living along the West Coast. Most of her formative years were spent in San Diego, living between Pacific Beach and East County. She also spent 5 of those years calling the great PNW home, and experienced what snow days and living among the consistent rain and redwoods have to offer.
No matter where home base was, she often traveled with her family for sports and regular camping/boating trips anywhere from Shasta Mountain to Yuma River; where they would hike, fish, tube, play games and explore.
She has 7 siblings and is the oldest of 5. This has allowed continuous first-hand lessons and real-life experience in caring, nurturing, and leading young ones in various stages of childhood.
She went on to the City of Trees – Chico, CA for her undergraduate studies. This is where she earned a double Bachelor of Arts, in Childhood Education K-12 and Spanish Language. She gained experience in the academic world by working in dual-immersion schools, interning at a hands-on-science lab, and continuously enriching her passion for education as a life-long learner.
She also studied abroad in Costa Rica where she completed her Spanish degree and interned as a Teacher’s Aid at a local elementary school. She is passionate about equitable access to education, exploratory learning, mentorship, fostering a sense of belonging, a healthy imagination, and use of creativity within the learning environment.
She plans to continue her education by earning a Masters and Credential in Early Childhood Education. In her free time Alyssa enjoys writing, meditating, doing yoga, spending time with loved ones, soaking up the sunshine, and most of all taking long walks with her floppy eared, best fur-friend, Truman.
All Friends Nature School has ignited a thrill for practical learning in the natural world. She is grateful to be apart of the inspiration, wonder, and joy that the students and staff of All Friends Nature School provides.
Sprouts Class – Educator
Eden grew up in Augusta, Maine, and she spent most of her childhood exploring the outdoors in all types of weather. From a young age she felt a strong connection to nature and to the changing seasons. Her favorite memories are of playing near the creek behind her childhood home during a rainy spring, snow days filled with sledding until dark and warming up with hot cocoa, and watching the colors of the leaves change from bright green to dark red and orange every autumn. Eden graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Mount Ida College in 2018.
During her years in undergrad she adopted a vegan lifestyle and from that grew a stronger connection to all living beings, and it led her to complete a Holistic Health & Nutrition Certificate. Since graduating Eden has become an avid traveler and loves to learn about the ways other cultures live and how they view the world. Eden has been supporting families and children as a nanny for the past 5 years which sparked her love and interest for early childhood education.
She enjoys watching children use their imaginations, connect with the outdoors, and grow into confident and capable people. She has a strong interest in supporting women and families in prenatal & postpartum and has helped new parents as a postpartum doula. She is also a certified yoga teacher and finds great joy in teaching yoga to children. She believes it is an important tool for children to be able to find their way back to their bodies and their breath. Eden came to California in 2021 on a cross country road trip from Massachusetts.
She feels grateful to feel the warmth of the sun on her skin every day and to be able to experience all of the beauty and nature southern California has to offer. Eden loves to spend her time reading, hiking, running, snowboarding, dancing, writing, baking, and world traveling. Eden is excited and honored to be joining the team at All Friends Nature School!
All School Support Staff
Claire was born and raised in Spokane Washington, and from a young age, found
meaning and took solace in the seasonal shifts she observed around her. Exploring the
magnificent backyard of the Pacific Northwest, she spent Summer’s camping on the Oregon
Coast with family, and running through Whidbey island’s old growth forest, climbing through
driftwood piles, picking blackberries, and building forts with her siblings behind her
grandfather’s home. Long winter’s were spent up the mountains, cross country skiing and
snowshoeing around North Idaho.
Throughout high school and her early college years, Claire worked as a camp counselor
and guided youth of all ages. As she transitioned out of school, she made her way to Glacier
National Park. There, she discovered her passion for seasonal work, and experienced the
life-giving nature of a community that loves change and discomfort, possesses a deep curiosity
for place, and seeks adventure.
As a boat captain and hiking guide in the Two Medicine valley of the park, she engaged in the stimulating work of connecting visitors to the natural resource by means of storytelling. The rich cultural history of the area provided her with the opportunity to learn from members of the Piikani tribe about their intimate relationship with the land. Their fluid understanding of identity– sense of interconnectedness with the natural world–expanded and excited her imagination.
The child-like awe she experienced in the Rocky Mountains were sensations she wanted
to continue to chase, prompting her move to the Golden State in November of 2021. During her
time in San Diego, Claire has worked as a kayak guide, falling in love with the slow, playful
rhythms of life on the coast. She loves engaging with the vast, mysterious nature of the water,
and hopes to learn as much from it as she can.
Claire joined All Friends in the early spring of 2023. She is uplifted by the children’s
abundant curiosity, wonder, and sense of amazement for their immediate surroundings: the soil
beneath their feet, snails in the trees, stones in the riverbed, and nasturtiums in bloom. They are
attentive to life in all its detail. She wants to immerse herself in play and exploration, just like
they do. Claire is grateful to be a part of this community.
Oaks class – Educator
Kimberly Sabiston is originally from Long Island, NY where she grew up playing along the shores of the Great South Bay. During her childhood, Kimberly and her family enjoyed many weekend camping and boating trips to Fire Island, NY. This is where her father instilled his love and fascination with nature within his three daughters.
Kimberly then went on to study elementary education with a minor in biology at SUNY Cortland and then received her master’s degree in biology education at SUNY Stonybrook. While living in California for the past 7 years, Kimberly has become a certified California Master Naturalist through UC Davis Extension and studied Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training through Antioch University at Santa Barbara. Also, she has enjoyed taking many Life-Ways Waldorf Education online courses to continue her education journey.
Kimberly has taught forest school classes for 5 years and has been a classroom teacher for over 15 years. Her true love is in sharing her passion and wonder of nature with her students and especially with her own two children, Easton and Kismet.