HomeGrown Nature School- Interview with Gretchen Guinn Paqutte- Owner

HomeGrown Nature School provides meaningful outdoor experiences in early childhood, in all seasons, to cultivate a deep connection to nature, a mindful way of life, and compassion for all.

Why tell a friend to come to the driftless region…
It’s a hidden gem. Surprisingly full of outdoor activities. Hiking and boating, hunting and fishing, agriculture…there’s everything.

Did the outdoors in your life inspire Nature School
The outdoors is my church. We would spend our Sundays and freetime outside on family hikes and adventures, goose island water, bluff exploration, that’s what made me feel connected with my fam and home. Spending time with ppl I love and outdoors and feeling of being grounded urged me to make a career for myself in the outdoors. Since then, I learned about ecopsychology.
Eco psychology: it’s a real thing. There is actual science to people feeling better and more grounded when they are outside. My goal is to provide that that to children. Growing up here made it a natural fit for me and inspired by school.

Why is nature important in children’s lives?
It’s scientifically proven that outdoors has positive impacts in child development. Our brains are influenced by our surroundings. In this world of tech, we are conditioned to need immediate responsive.immediate gratification. Nature slows us down and makes us more mindful. Being in nature actually changes your brain. It’s really important for the next gen and our environment. It’s a reciprocal relationship. When you have a connection to nature, you have a higher likelihood of taking care of the earth. It’s your home. We take care of our homes. If we’re experiencing nature in a way that’s gratifying for us, we’re going to take care of it.

We need to take care of this place that we call home.

What teacher made the most impact on you and why:
Dr. Harvey Witzenberg Principle at Jefferson Elementary. Jan Marson: 3 and 4 grade teacher. Jefferson elementary. The most creative and loving environment to grow up in Montessori passion. Taught us how to teach ourselves and learn with passion. Helping us learn what we want to learn about and teaching us how to learn about our passions. I feel like that’s how school should be. Experiential based schooling. Self directed learning.
Prescott College, where I went to school was like nature school for college kids. Experiential based schooling.

My degree is ecopsychology.

If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Obviously, I’d be able to expand nature school. Right now, I’m trying to save and do that, but it’s hard financially. I would travel and open a bigger school. Bringing value to our community and children and continuing to learn myself though experience in the world. I would love to open more nature schools around the country.
I’ve wanted to do this since I was 20.

A skill you’d like to learn:
Bow hunt…I’ve loved archery since I went to summer camp, I think it was pretty good. I think I would cry if I killed an animal, but I would like to experience the humbleness of hunting, killing, cleaning, and eating my own food, at least once.

What do your friends say about you?
Assertive, brash, adaptable.
Motivated and highly passionate, extrovert, passionate about social justice and community engagement

Do over in life
Nothing. My past made me who I am today.

Most Proud of
Honestly I’m most proud of my resilience.  When something doesn’t go well for me I try and try again until I find a way to do it in a way that works for me.  I’ve built a beautiful life with my husband. I am proud of the child we are raising and our contributions to society. All of these successes came with many challenges.

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