Our Story

We found ourselves along with other parents yearning for more connection with our children. In today's fast paced world, we saw so many kids losing their spark for learning along with their ability to embrace the fullness of life. At the end of the day, we often felt unfulfilled as parents, having missed out on truly engaging our children's hearts.  

We knew there was a richer way to engage them that would ignite their spirits and, once lit, would spill over into every aspect of their lives. 

So as wilderness lovers, forest school teachers, community builders, and trained educators, we brought together our expertise and passions to create an environment where kids get to explore and learn through experience. We created a loving place where kids feel heard, seen and appreciated for their own special gifts. A place that was free from politics and full of love and positive character development. 

Founder, Tracy Thomas, with her inspiration for forming Enriched Kids (AKA our favorite program critic)

We built our outdoor Elementary Forest School and Summer Camp Programs to answer this call by providing a nurturing, educational environment for children to thrive. Similarly, our modules are products that serve families by providing our valuable tools and heartwarming educational activities in an a-la-carte format for individual download. You can find these in our shop.

Meet Our Directors

Tracy Thomas

Founder and Director

Hi there, I'm Tracy and I'm most inspired when I'm outdoors in nature. When I can smell the trees, hear the ocean waves, or just have my feet on a dirt trail, my spirit most vibrantly comes alive. I noticed however, how many kids aren't given the opportunity to find what ignites their joy. In our over-scheduled lives, kids jump from activity to activity without time to renew our spirits. The result is that our collective stress levels are off the charts. I found that when I don't prioritize offsetting busyness by slowing down to go deeper with the things that matter most to me, my spiritual grounding suffers, and with it, I lose my ability to relish in the goodness of nature, family and relationships.

I felt a deep need to address this in my own family, and in doing so, realized that I shared a vision with so many other parents in my community. At that point, I knew I was being called to fill this void and create a program where kids are given the space to allow wonder and curiosity to guide them, while introducing them to the nuances of the natural world. I wanted to teach kindness and resilience alongside shelter-building and weather patterns. I wanted to do science experiments in the elements followed by making picture frames out of sticks. And so, Enriched Kids was born. As we have grown and matured in our own journeys, we pass on the love to the families we serve.

I am a certified Forest School Teacher, a public speaker, and a board-certified holistic nutritionist. I hold degrees and certifications in Emotional Development, Elementary Montessori, Wilderness First Aid, and Leadership. I also have a Master's Degree from University of California at Santa Barbara. When I'm not serving families in our local outdoor programs, you can usually find me skiing or backpacking in Mammoth with my daughter (aka Enriched Kids' favorite little program critic!) 

Julie Otero

co-Founder and MARKETING Director

Hello, I'm Julie. My greatest passions involve exploring the great outdoors and traveling the world to experience different cultures and ways of life. I feel most alive and at peace in places where my cellphone has no coverage, and I think it's important for kids to learn to love the outdoors as well. I believe in the power of play and enjoy creating nature study and wilderness skills lessons for our students.

When forced to move myself indoors, I enjoy working behind the scenes on marketing and business initiatives for the company as well as developing our online curriculum. 

I hold a B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University and a masters degree from Northeastern University in Nonprofit Administration and Leadership.  Recently I earned a postgraduate certificate in Social and Emotional Learning from University of Colorado, Boulder.

Mariana Rickard

co-director of programs 

Hello, I'm Mariana and I've been an outdoor enthusiast my entire life. I spent much of my adult life in Colorado and the Washington wilderness, and I am passionate about both the outdoors and about children. I have a young daughter with whom I do many of my adventures. I also have had several art businesses, and I bring my craftiness to Enriched Kids as our arts and crafts specialist. I love to sit in nature with children watching their own creativity take over as they run with their ideas.

I am trained in Early Child Development and Montessori theory, and I use this to help create a warm a nurturing environment for the children. I also have a science degree and an art degree from the Claremont Colleges.

Dr. Candace Poindexter

education DIRECTOR

Hello, I'm Candace and as a lifelong educator, I am inspired when I see the wonder and joy in children’s faces as they experience something new or meet a challenge with impunity.  Likewise, observing students demonstrate positive character traits such as kindness, optimism, empathy and perseverance in their work and play is a delight to me as an educator.  My goal is to inspire children to love learning as much as I have been inspired to teach!

I'm a Professor Emeritus at Loyola Marymount University's School of Education, following my 35 year career serving as Chair of Elementary and Secondary Education Department and Director of LMU's Literacy Lab. I am an author of several books and articles in peer-reviewed journals, a public speaker and I currently oversee national accreditation for schools.