Core Program


True North believes wholeheartedly in the wholesome and age-old proven effectiveness of play-based learning; what we call plearning. During plearning times activities include - nature play, rock hopping, reading, lizard hunting, mud pie making, tree climbing, studying field guides, crafting, storytelling, acting out plays, music, ninja practice, discovery walks, plant identification, singing, sewing, spinning yarn, painting, weaving, bird watching, cloud gazing, running, dancing, swinging in a hammock, cooking projects, slackline, games......and more! The mixed aged children learn so much from each other and the facilitators share their many skills and passions with the children as well. 

"She is so happy to be around friends outside, and she especially appreciates having freedom to self direct her activities and make her own choices about how to engage, which activities to choose, etc."
-- True North Parent

True North is currently accepting applications for fall 2022.

Core Program

Monday - Friday

10:00a.m. - 2:00p.m.
1-5 days per week options

Mixed-ages, 4.5 and older

Extended Hours

Monday - Thursday

2:00 - 4:00p.m.

1 -4 days per week options

You may register for the Core Program only or a combination of the Core Program, Classes and extended hours options.

For tuition and enrollment information please see the tuition and enrollment pages.

We meet at various nature spots and other locations in the Santa Barbara area.

Daily rhythm
10:00am: arrival
10:00-11:00: plearning (playing + learning, because they are the same thing!)
11:00 - 11:30: snack and group time
11:30 - 12:30 plearning
12:30- 1:00 lunch and group time
1:00 - 2:00 plearning
2:00pm: pick-up

"One of my favorite comments from my daughter when asked how her day went at TrueNorth was: 'Oh Mom, I had so much fun! There's so much to explore in the creek and the woods with my friends. It's SO delicious outside!'"

-- True North Parent


Program philosophy:

Our Core Program is the heartbeat of True North where we get the
opportunity to live and learn by recreating the village in the beautiful
outdoor areas of Santa Barbara.  


In a village setting children would learn how to relate to the world (and each other) and what tools were necessary for survival by watching older peers and adults.  Children would practice, copy, and explore what they saw on their own.
Older children and adults were there to offer guidance, ensure safety, and assist with the development of new skills and learnings.  

At True North, we know we can not fully recreate the village.  But, we
can borrow what was useful, skillful, and vital about village living.
Intergenerational support, modeling, guidance, skill-building, and
communication skills are are directly transferable to our modern


Whereas the conventional school system prioritizes the three
R's, TN prioritizes personal agency, relationship-building,
communication skills, and a sense of place and belonging.  We feel that
if a child or youth feels healthy in these ways, that they can learn
anything they want to.

To help recreate a village dynamic  we have consciously chosen to structure the program with adult facilitators, young adult assistant facilitators, and
junior mentors.  We encourage mixed age learning for our participants through daily, active social engagement where older children can teach, healthily challenge, and model for younger children; and younger children can learn and also teach the older participants about being patient, slowing down, and listening.


We base our understanding of the rich landscape of "village" learning
from robust models such as Sudbury Valley Schools, Open Schools, Agile
Learning Centers, and Unschooling communities.  And, having opened our
proverbial doors in September 2020, we are just at the beginning of our
journey of gathering our community, creating our home space, and
defining our culture.

"Most days I run around fast.. I sing and I play... but today I decided to be quiet and still. It was pretty cool because I was so peaceful that I could actually hear my own thoughts in my head."

--6 year old TN learner