by Keturah Huisken, guest blogger and Tinkergarten instructor

young children mixing up dirt and making mud pies in bowlsAs I wrap up another spring of Tinkergarten outdoor classes, I leave the families with a few profound thoughts (they aren’t mine, so I can call them that). One is a quote by the renowned David Sobel, “​Give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” And the other is a Tinkergarten mantra: We encourage kids to play messy now, so that they can think messy later! (By the way, “Thinking messy” is just our way of saying “thinking creatively and outside of the box.” ) We had just wrapped up our season with a huge feast and party to celebrate Earth’s birthday. We “cooked” with mud, dirt, sand, pinecones, rocks, shells, and some fresh herbs from my garden. Kids dove in and worked together to make cakes, soups, cupcakes, and pies. It was a beautiful glorious mess that ended with stick candles and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to our sweet Earth. What better way to remind families that messy outdoor play seems simple but can have a lasting effect on children’s thinking and attitude towards the Earth?

This is why I love what I do.

young child holding a stick and looking at a maple helicopterI have been a classroom teacher for 10 years, the last 5 at an outdoor and place-based focused school. Now I am mostly at home with my two gorgeous boys. But in an effort to build community around a shared love of the great Montana outdoors, I brought the nation-wide Tinkergarten classes to Missoula for the first time. Since then these classes have reached nearly 150 children in our area. Getting them outside together with their special adult. Getting them to play messy; learn about animals, insects, weather, art, and much more; singing songs; reading beautiful books; and making sweet connections with each other. But mostly playing and loving the Earth.

two young children playing in the snow, putting bird seed in a bucketThis endeavor has been life-changing and life-affirming for me and my family. We have learned new ways to play together, learned even more about nature, and made incredibly wonderful friends. My boys are building social skills, STEAM skills, creativity, resilience, fine and gross motor skills (I could go on and on) each season. When I lead a class, I get to bring both of my boys, build community for them, and pass down a love for every kind of weather and creature. We are all more joyful for it. I can only hope any family that joins Tinkergarten gains the same.

I am so incredibly thankful that MNHC has lent both of its beautiful gardens for our Tinkergarten and Tinkergarten Babies classes. Without them I don’t know that we could have launched these classes in Missoula. So much joy and connection has been built because of you, Montana Natural History Center! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If you would like to find out more about Tinkergarten (the philosophy, classes near you, or how to become a leader yourself) check out or If you would like to join a free trial class to see if it is for your family check out


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