Our Team

Rachel A. Larimore, Founder

Rachel 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 and expertise is intentional integration of nature into early childhood education for young children’s whole development.

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 is a doctoral student in Michigan State University’s Department of Teacher Education; received 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. For more about Rachel, visit www.rachel-larimore.com.

David Catlin, Consultant

David Catlin’s work with Samara Early Learning primarily focuses on administrative aspects of nature-based early childhood education—particularly related to business planning and issues around operations. He and Rachel began working together in 2014 to provide business planning support to organizations and individuals looking to start their own nature-based preschool.  

David has devoted his 35-year-long professional career to the nature center and environmental learning center field. He started with degrees in environmental education and interpretation. He then spent 16 years with the Missouri Department of Conservation, helping to plan and launch the agency’s nature center network for six years and later running its Springfield Conservation Nature Center for a decade. In 2000, he signed on with the National Audubon Society. For 15 years, his responsibilities there included supporting the organization’s national network of over 40 centers and overseeing the start-up of 16 new facilities across the country—evaluating sites, facilitating strategic and business planning, selecting architects and exhibit design teams, training staff, and serving as an in-house resource for problem-solving and question-answering. He has also worked as a writer, speaker, and capital campaign counsel. You can learn more about David and his recent work at www.davidcatlin.com.