District 10 Como Community Council

Know Your Como: This Will Be as Hard as it is Beautiful

Know Your Como: This Will Be as Hard as it is Beautiful

By Sonjie Johnson

Imagine having a dream – a dream that seems entirely out of reach.  And yet….

That dream came true for Dani Carlin, when he and his partner, Meg opened the doors of The Little Naturalist Day Care in Como Park in 2021. A nature centric, immersive pre-school day care, LNDC’s curriculum is primarily outdoors and provides hands-on nature projects throughout the year.

Years ago, while teaching in traditional classrooms, Dani felt that kids would benefit from spending more time outdoors. He implemented nature-based lessons in his classrooms where he could, built cardboard trees and helped kids plant vegetables in cups to take home, but he dreamed of an inclusive, immersive, nature-centered setting for students that was also conducive to learning.

When he moved to Minnesota and began exploring the possibilities, Dani found a lot of support. Think Small Minnesota, a free program that helps educators start their own programs, encouraged and supported him. Parent Aware of Minnesota and Outfront Minnesota were also involved.

“The backend of starting any business takes a lot of work,” Dani said. He had to find the right location, go through the licensing process paperwork, and meet various city requirements. It took about a year to complete those tasks.

During that time, he wrote the curriculum and planned the indoor and outdoor classroom, which he built himself. He constructed privacy fences, designed and built an SA-frame playhouse, set up garden spaces, built the tables for the mud/kitchen/water play. The process took a lot of focus and hard work. 

A significant moment in his journey happened when Meg joined Dani at the school as a part-time teacher. For Meg, the experience of teaching at the school is a “truly heart-centered work, grounded in my values.”  Both teachers mentioned the importance of the support from and collaboration with the Como Park community.

The couple hopes to expand in the near future, to provide more equitable access regarding tuition and additional family services. They both mention the honor of supporting children’s development and growth in community.

I asked what advice the couple would give to others who want to pursue alternative businesses. Dani referred to a quote mounted on their wall – “This will be as hard as it is beautiful”  He says that there are many resources for new business owners. His advice – build community. Be patient. Don’t give up. It all takes time.

“At Little Naturalists nature based preschool we help to guide young children through early development via nature based play, while striving to encourage and inspire a curiosity with nature and the natural world. Nature based learning is an amazing tool in aiding early development. The Little Naturalists curriculum is centered around environmental and social justice. We focus on topics of gender identity affirmation, celebrating diversity within the classroom, mindfulness and body awareness, communicating within conflict, inclusivity, kindness, respecting personal boundaries, and consent. Little Naturalists is currently enrolling students ages 3-5. Visit our website for more information, and apply today.”

Do you know some interesting history about your home, your neighbor or about the Como neighborhood? Anyone is welcome to do an interview, share historic photos or do a write up for the Know Your Como segment of our newsletter! For more information on how to submit go to our Know Your Como page.