Member Spotlight

Wonder Bugs Preschool Program


The Wonder Bugs Preschool Program is offered by the Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) in Monona, Wisconsin. The nature center is situated on more than 20 acres of restored prairie, woodland, and pond habitats and between two conservation areas, providing over 100 acres of trails. The land is a beautiful, unique, and valuable resource that every program at ALNC, including Wonder Bugs, utilizes daily. We asked Tara Von Dollen, Wonder Bugs Teacher, to tell us more about the program she created.


What makes the Wonder Bugs Preschool Program special? What are some of the benefits of the Wonder Bugs program?
Specifically designed for children ages 2-5 with an accompanying adult, the Wonder Bugs Preschool Program (WB) is a fun and engaging way to introduce young children to the natural world. Children today spend very little time outdoors and have little exposure to systems that sustain life. WB was created as a way to bridge this gap and create shared experience.
One of the most important elements in encouraging positive environmental awareness is having a role model with whom one can share and experience nature with. When Wonder Bugs children experience nature and the wonder -- full habitats and grounds with their caring adult, these young children are developing a connection with the natural world, reaping numerous physical, mental, emotional, academic, and transcendental benefits, and will likely mature into adults who will share their love of nature with young children.
As an educator, I really adore watching the interactions and growth between the children and their adults as they share in the wonders of nature. Each week, through different seasonal topics that involve hikes, outdoor exploration, music, puppetry, songs, snack, and stories, we model how to appreciate nature and respect the land, how to find the wonders in every small and great part, and how to overcome fears in order to foster a love of nature. 
And it isn’t just the young children that are learning. Adults always say that they learn something too in each class.
Your organization has recently re-affirmed its mission to engage and educate current and future generations, empowering them to respect, protect, and enjoy the natural world. How does the Wonder Bugs Preschool Program contribute to that mission?
In every WB class, we are living our mission because we are learning, playing, exploring, and wondering in nature. We are developing connections between young children and the natural world and we are helping to facilitate their enjoyment. The more young people learn to love a place, the more likely they are to protect and preserve it. It is the continued experiences in all weather, in all seasons, for all different topics, that help to grow love for a space, including the natural world.
One of our most important initiatives from our strategic planning process is expanding equitable access for all to experience the wonders of the natural world. One way we are creating access with our WB programs is by offering the program off-site in new spaces and places, at schools and community centers in Dane County, so that people who may not be able to come to the nature center can still reap the program’s benefits. Nature happens everywhere, so by bringing WBs on the road, we are bringing nature education to these communities. In addition to English, we also offer the program in Spanish, so we can serve Spanish-speaking members of our community as well.
We believe by fulfilling our mission through programs such as Wonder Bugs, we can address two of the greatest long-term challenges in today’s world: the health of our children and the health of the planet, as the two are inextricably connected.
For more information about Aldo Leopold Nature Center, please visit To learn more about the Wonder Bugs Preschool Program, please visit