Welcome back! Our facility is now open on weekdays from 9am to 4pm and on weekends from 10am to 2pm.

Because we are a childcare facility and still following public health protocols, we will retain a few restrictions, including requiring masking indoors and limited access to some public offerings and areas of our facility. We may also have to adjust our hours or access on short notice. We appreciate your patience as we work through changes in staffing and schedules, and work to find a healthy balance of access and safety for our community.

As always, our grounds and trails featuring self-guided tours are free and open daily from dawn until dusk.

Nature Preschool Staff

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Courtney Woods, Nature Preschool Director
Courtney is a lifelong educator who believes strongly in the power of playing and learning in nature. She taught kindergarten for ten years, most recently at Lowell Elementary in Madison. She has a Masters degree in curriculum and instruction from UW Madison, a reading specialist license, and a Bachelors in elementary education and psychology. Her connection with ALNC began in 2013 as a summer environmental educator. Courtney believes that nature can bring so much to both children and adults — joy, wonder, curiosity, peace — and is dedicated to helping nature-based education become a central foundation of all teaching and learning in our community. She is also passionate about social justice and anti-bias education which she believes is integral to early childhood learning environments. When not at ALNP, she spends time running, reading, and trying to tame her wild vegetable garden. She and her husband have a one-year-old who they love to take on hikes in the Madison area.


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Amy Callies, Nature Preschool Educator
Amy is passionate about providing inquiry-based, hands-on, placed-based and play-based environmental activities for children. Amy has been an elementary educator for over 30 years and she recently retired from Park Elementary School in Cross Plains, WI. She has a Masters from UW-Madison in Educational Psychology, a BS in Preschool/Kindergarten and a second BS in Elementary Education from UW Madison. She is nationally board certified as an early childhood generalist. Amy served as the school forest coordinator and grant writer in her school district for 15 years. She has raised hundreds of monarch caterpillars to use in classrooms and at the nature center. Amy spent many years teaching young children how to cross country ski at Blue Mound State Park. She has worked as an environmental educator at ALNC since 2011. Amy is a lifelong Madisonian and an avid Badger fan. Amy loves to kayak, garden, cross country ski, ice skate, hike, and spend as much time outside as possible enjoying all that nature has to offer!


Jessi Claringbole 150 x 150

Jessi Claringbole, Nature Preschool Educator
Jessi started teaching environmental education in 2007. She spent that summer in Alaska teaching about native plants, animals, and singing about salmon with kids. After that, she taught in the west coast and east coast before returning to Dane County in 2013. That is when she began teaching at Aldo Leopold Nature Center. She has always been a nature enthusiast and enjoys sharing that passion with kiddos. When not playing in the dirt or going on hikes she enjoys spending time sewing, painting, and gardening.


Julie Jarvis

Julie Jarvis, Nature Preschool Educator
Julie’s connection to nature developed during her childhood, hiking the dunes and playing in the waters and sands of Lake Michigan. Her wonder, care, and concern for nature led her to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in ecology from the University of Michigan and a career as an environmental educator. Then, after several years working in a preschool, her love of children and the desire to foster their wellbeing, led her to Western Washington University for a Masters of Education in school counseling and to work as an elementary school counselor and child and adolescent therapist. After moving to Madison in 2010, Julie worked in the non-profit sector, supporting school sustainability efforts and collaborating with teachers to integrate place-based, outdoor inquiry in their teaching. As a preschool educator, Julie aims to facilitate the wellbeing of children, families, and the natural world through helping to connect people to themselves, others, and nature. Julie enjoys hiking, cooking, baking, gardening, and acting. She lives in Madison with her husband, son, and dog.


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Melissa Kesling, Nature Preschool Educator
Melissa has been at ALNC since 2016 and has been in the teaching profession for 16 years, having taught in California for several years before returning back home to Wisconsin. She loves spending time outdoors exploring new places and adding birds to her life list. If she’s not working, she’s usually spending time with her family or out birding in and around Madison.



Claudia Lewis, Nature Preschool Educator
Claudia was born in Germany and her childhood there included summers camping with her family, as well as foraging for mushrooms and berries with her grandparents. After her family moved to Wisconsin when she was 11, she began to thoroughly enjoy learning about the flora and fauna of the Midwest. She adores finding wonder and joy in the little surprises to be found in nature, and delights in exploring and sharing that with young people. She loved teaching field-trips and summer camp at Aldo Leopold Nature Center starting in 2018, leading groups ranging from 3 year olds to college-aged students and feels that she’s found her “happy place” here. With a BS in Environmental Science and several years of experience as a preschool teacher, Claudia feels that teaching at ALNP is her dream job. She appreciates the value of introducing children to nature early in life, and understands that this can spark a life-long love of our natural environment! She enjoys hiking, backpacking, reading, learning new things, knitting, snowshoeing, eating and traveling, and lives in Madison with her husband, two kids, and a lovable mutt.



Nicky Mondroski, Nature Preschool Educator
Nicky has been an environmental educator for 20 years and has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. She has experience working with children as young as infants and as old as teenagers. Working for the Forest Service allowed her to teach children all across the country from different backgrounds. She spent two years at Nature’s Classroom learning how to write curriculum, teaching team building skills and doing historical simulations. At Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, Nicky worked with every age of kids, but really fell in love with teaching the toddlers. For the past 12 years, she has loved working as a Naturalist at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Nicky is most looking forward to dipping in our pond throughout the year and watching the phenological changes with the children. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, running, traveling to other countries and camping and has 3 children who love coming to ALNC.



Lauren Mordini, Camps Coordinator & Nature Preschool Educator
Lauren came to ALNC from the Chicago area. Growing up, she would enjoy annual summer road trips with her family that always included some national park or state park hiking – this was the start of her love for the outdoors. Since then, she has kept her connection with nature through running, her education, and her career aspirations. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Ecology from Luther College. After graduating, Lauren found herself doing work with environmental-oriented organizations but was always looking for the connection between children and nature. She has found that calling here at ALNC. In her free time, you can find Lauren running, exploring Madison and enjoying a good book! In her position as Camps Coordinator, Lauren oversees ALNC’s summer camp & vacation day programs during the day and over the summer and comes to lead end-of-the-day activities in the preschool.


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Melissa Salisbury, Educational Support Specialist
Melissa is a School Social Worker (by trade) and Nature Lover (at heart). She is an advocate for social justice in all forms, and loves to unwind by camping, skiing, hiking, and exploring the great outdoors. Melissa attended UW-Madison as an undergrad and earned her MSW at the University of Chicago in 2004. She’s worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds across her 17-year school social work career, having spent 15 of those years in the Chicago area. Melissa’s focus is on building school systems that support social/emotional growth and development; she provides clinical guidance to students, families and staff on navigating mental health diagnoses, other disabilities, and traumatic life experiences. Fundamentally, Melissa believes effective education begins with building a strong, supportive relationship; she values and upholds each student’s implicit strengths and uniqueness. In 2018 Melissa and her family moved to Madison; she chose to step away from social work for a bit to join the ranks of ALNC’s Environmental Educators and lead student field trips and summer camps. Prior to this, she had no idea how pond-dipping would change her life! It was the most fun she ever had at work, and knew immediately that she was in a very special place. At present, Melissa concurrently works part-time in a nearby school district supporting families impacted by housing insecurity and homelessness, and is thrilled to rejoin ALNC as it’s first-ever staff social worker, bringing a positive behavioral intervention lens to bolster ALNC student success. She considers herself a very lucky person to get to do this work!



Brian Schneider, Nature Preschool Educator
Brian grew up traveling around the state of Wisconsin with his family and exploring the many landscapes the state has to offer. Originally from Wauwatosa, WI, he has spent the past 9 years in Madison after getting his bachelor’s degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Brian’s experience in environmental education started in college where he was a camp counselor for UW Camp Kesem and a nature club leader for middle school students in Madison. He has been an environmental educator at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center for 6 years and has enjoyed leading backpacking, canoeing and camping trips, as well as working camps and field trips with kids of all ages. Brian believes every day spent outside leads to new discoveries and that connecting with nature is an integral part of education. In his free time Brian enjoys birding, photography, camping, playing sports, and cheering on the Badgers, Brewers, Bucks and Packers.



Liesl Schultz Hying, Nature Preschool Educator
Liesl spent her childhood playing and hiking in fields and woods of Wisconsin, developing a connection to the natural world. Liesl has a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood from Butler University in Indianapolis. At Butler, she was a member of the basketball team and was fortunate to continue her playing career for two years in Europe. Liesl returned to the states and coached women’s basketball at the collegiate level for 5 years. She then returned to her home state and taught for 9 years at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool in Milwaukee, one of the first Nature Preschools in the country. After moving to Whitewater, Liesl established and leads a school garden at an elementary school. Liesl enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, photography, traveling and cheering on her Butler Bulldogs.


Aldo Leopold Nature Center