Our Team

Rachel A. Larimore, Founder

Prior to founding Samara Early Learning, Rachel worked for 15 years as the Director of Education at Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) in Midland, MI. In 2007, she developed the Nature Preschool at CNC and implemented the on-the-ground work to bring it to reality. She continued as the founding director of the program until 2016 when, at her departure, the program served 140 children each year through public and private funding sources. Her other duties included coordinating all youth programs including school programs, nature day camp, scouts, etc. In her tenure at CNC she also co-chaired the Nature Center’s $6 million expansion project, which was completed in 2010. The expansion included an approximately 5,000 square foot LEED Gold Certified preschool building.

To help other nature centers create a similar nature-based early childhood program Rachel authored the book Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool, published by the National Association for Interpretation. Her next book, focused on integrating nature-based practices into the preschool classroom, is due out Spring 2019.

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. 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.