Founder & Owner
Organization: Samara Early Learning
Dr. Rachel A. Larimore is an educator, speaker, consultant, and author of three books including Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool and Preschool Beyond Walls: Blending Early Childhood Education and Nature-Based Learning. Her passion, expertise, and work focuses on the intentional integration of nature to support young children’s holistic development by learning with nature to expand their worlds and live rich, full lives. Through Samara Early Learning, she helps early childhood educators start nature-based schools or add nature-based approaches into their existing programs.
Prior to establishing Samara Early Learning, Rachel founded one of the nation’s earliest nature-based preschools at Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) in Midland, MI. The creation of the preschool in 2007 was part of her 15-year tenure as the Director of Education. She continued as the director of the program until 2016 when, at her departure, the program served 140 children each year through public and private funding sources. In her tenure at CNC she also co-chaired the Nature Center’s $6 million capital expansion project, which was completed in 2010. The expansion included an approximately 5,000 square foot LEED Gold Certified preschool building. During her time at CNC, Rachel led the creation of a partnership with Bullock Creek Schools to create a nature-based kindergarten and first grade within the public school system.
Rachel serves on the advisory board of the Natural Start Alliance, a professional association supporting nature-based educators. She also served on the committee to write the Natural Start Alliance’s Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practice Guidebook, a book which describes how nature-based educators can offer programs that are safe, effective, and inclusive.
Rachel earned her Ph.D. at Michigan State University’s Department of Teacher Education; a M.A. in Park and Recreation Administration from Central Michigan University; and a B.S. in Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism, with an emphasis in interpretation, from Colorado State University. Rachel has been recognized for her work by various organizations including the National Association for Interpretation Region 4’s in 2012 with the “Master Interpretive Manager” recognition; First State Bank’s “RUBY Award” in 2013 for professionals under the age of 40; and Exchange Magazine in 2015 with the “Promising Early Care and Education Leader” award.