JEMA’s design for the new Good Shepherd Childhood Center is approved and moving forward. The new 12,000 sq. ft. facility will be located at the intersection of Page Blvd and Hodiamont Avenue in north St. Louis city.

The Good Shepherd Early Learning Center is part of the Foundation for Strengthening Families (FSF), a non-for-profit that seeks to create stronger families through a unique early childhood educational philosophy: re-connecting children to nature. FSF believes that children can learn and grow best in a setting surrounded and embedded in nature. The new center is forging a new paradigm for childhood development that is actually centuries old: children should be outside and when they aren’t outside, then bring the outdoors inside. Nature, whether one is inside or outside, is a constant presence.

The concept of “growing children” within nature was first actively manifest in Scandinavia post WWII. Goesta Frohm created the idea of ‘Skogsmulle’ schools, from skog (forest) and mulle (a friendly forest-dwelling creature). He was seeing a widening chasm opening up between children and nature and decided to create a school where the children spend nearly 80% of their time outdoors, no matter what the weather conditions.

The pedagogical philosophy is based on what Scandinavians call friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv). The expression literally translates as “open-air living”.