FAQs | GENERAL PROGRAM LOGISTICS
Tours include a walk around the property to see program spaces including the garden, woodshop, horse zone, archery range, riding arena, animal areas and general meeting zones. Thanks for letting your students know that tours do not include animal interaction time or any hiking to areas like the Tree Fort. To arrange a tour, please call or email the office.
Since our staff work year-round and are on a very short summer break when this occurs, we do not have time to introduce students and instructors in person prior to the start of the year. Instead, we have biographies of each of our staff on the website so that students can familiarize themselves with who to meet the first day of class. We ask parents/guardians to escort their student all the way to meet their child(ren)’s instructor the first day of class and welcome you to chat with staff at dropoff anytime you’d like.
Our goal is to keep each instructor in the same teaching schedule for the full year so that if you come back session after session at the same time you enjoy continuity of staff. For families who begin classes mid-year, we are happy to try and accommodate a meet and greet if that instructor has planning time that matches your availability. To inquire about this opportunity please email the office.
If you have a concern that is time-sensitive and your instructor does not seem to have the availability to speak with you, please stop by the red shipping container office to speak with the Business Manager who can help by either answering your question or supporting the instructor to make time for them to speak with you.
Your registration paperwork should tell you where to meet (Program Zone, Garden or Horse Zone). Please make sure to park your car (we are a no-idle zone), and wait in the family area near the parking lot until the scheduled start of your class. Instructors are either teaching another class or are preparing right up until the start of you scheduled program, so we appreciate your understanding in supervising your child(ren) until they are checked in and with their teacher. When it is time for class to start, escort your student to their instructor so our staff can introduce themselves and answer any questions you have.
NOTE ABOUT PARKING: We do share the parking lot with the ILM Tree Homeschool Co-op during the school year, so we ask that you make sure to park in a spot designated for Sienna Ranch since the ILM Tree families need to be able to come and go from their parking spot throughout the day. If you have concerns about parking, please let our Director know.
The first few minutes of each group class is reserved for student arrival. Your student’s instructor will likely check them in on their roster, introduce some sort of arrival activity option for your child to do while the others arrive, and may check in to see that your child has all their required gear for the day. If your child has health history that the instructor wants to know more detail about they might ask you a few follow up questions about relevant allergies, etc. When your child seems settled and engaged with the group you can say goodbye and depart through the front gate.
We ask that whichever adult is picking up parks in a Sienna Ranch parking spot walks to the parent waiting area (Program Zone) and waits for the instructor to bring the students to you. Instructors strive to be near the gate about five minutes before class ends. The end of class is a bit of a logistical ballet as staff may be sending some students to additional classes, rounding up everyones belongings and putting the finishing touches on any parent notes going home, so we thank you in advance for waiting in the parent area for students to come to you.
Students are responsible for telling their instructor that they see their ride inside the gated area, at which time they are allowed to check themselves out with the staff and walk through the gate to you. We ask that siblings wait with their parent/guardian outside the gate if there is another sibling en route for checkout.
Most days pickup will take ~5 minutes or so and the line departing the parking lot will take another ~5 minutes or so, as Deer Hill Road can be congested during commute hours. If we had a magic wand to double the size of our lot and create a turning lane, believe me, we would! Until then we thank you for your patience.
If you are not quite ready for drop off programming, consider coming to the ranch for a Family Day experience to try Archery, Pony Rides, a hike to the tree fort and more all together as a family!
Our goal is to offer a safe and fun program experience for everyone.
FAQs | SCHOOL YEAR REGISTRATION
We strive to offer families the chance to preview the options for the fall with a few weeks notice so that there is plenty of time to call/email the office before registration opens to get assistance making your family account, deciphering class options or payment methods. The best way to be kept up-to-date about enrollment is to subscribe to our email newsletter, since that is the tool we use to contact prospective families about registration.
We rely on families to accurately report student grades. Please let us know if you would like help choosing which grade level to assign your student. We will automatically graduate your student at the end of the school year.
NOTE ON GRADE DIFFERENCES: If you wish for an older and younger student to be together, you are welcome to enroll the older student into the younger program. Please do not enroll younger students in older programs without a written age exception from the office.
For class periods with multiple sections, make sure to communicate with friends about which class you are choosing (the ‘Instructor’ part of the grid will either say class #1 / class #2 or specific instructor names). Thanks for your understanding, that the office cannot guarantee there will be space to rearrange students once class rosters are set.
Register early by enrolling online when program goes live. Interested in multiple sessions? For families who pay in full out of pocket, you are welcome to pay for any class you want and forward your confirmation email to the office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to take advantage of our deposit system, which means we’ll refund all but $50 per enrollment, with the understanding that we will plan to re-charge the card on file for the upcoming session’s balance a month prior to the start of each quarter.
If you have a family account and a credit card on file we are happy to enroll on your behalf with written permission, but for our most popular programs we encourage you to reserve your spots directly since we cannot guarantee space will be remaining when we get to your request. Refunds are granted within one business day, so we hope this work around will allow you the flexibility to register quickly but without ultimately paying a huge bill all in one month.
We expect to refund your credit card deposit, assuming your charter school will pay for the program in full, but your credit card gives us the security to save a space for you in our limited programming without worrying that the tuition will go unfulfilled.
When we revised the schedule to add more afternoon options, we maintained a later start time on Fridays because we had just created the Nature Sages teen class, which was 4.5 hours long and wouldn’t fit into a schedule that had a class preceding or following it. We’ve since revised Nature Sages to synchronize with the drop off and pickup times of the classes for younger students, but we’ve elected to keep one day of class with later start times (as opposed to rearranging the schedule and adding a second set of afternoon classes).
With program demand as it is, we do not currently see an option to push back any other start times.
With regard to adding more sections of classes on Fridays, our parking lot space is limited, preventing us from adding any additional sections of program to our Friday schedule.
We understand that first-come, first-served registration is imperfect since eager families may be away from their computers the day our registration opens, but we feel that it is the best option for us at this time since priority registration would add a significant administrative burden without solving the problem at hand, which are limited capacity in classes. For instance, we have about twice as many returning customers interested in Friday classes as we have space to accommodate, so offering priority registration to returning families would still not necessarily guarantee returning customers the spots they are hoping for (but would gobble up a significant amount of administrative time in the process). Instead, we’re trying to focus on concrete improvements to the registration process so that any family can register easily from a mobile device or computer as soon as registration opens.
We are actively trying to address shortcomings in our diversity at Sienna Ranch, which means we want to welcome new students into all classes. For this reason, if we did ever create a priority registration system we would likely do so to meet these diversity goals, not to prioritize space to returning customers. At this time though, we do not have the infrastructure to take this step.
- We strongly believe that small class sizes contribute to our ability to offer safe, personal, hands-on experiences and continue to seek out ways to help as many families as possible receive their first-choice of programming. We understand those of you who have watched us grow over the years have seen a difference in how registration looks at the start of the year but we hope that you’ve also noticed the way our program quality continues to meet and exceed your expectations. We are in a unique spot where are small business committed to staying small, also trying to attract a more diverse population who deserves access to our most convenient days and times. We appreciate those who flex their schedule to make this opportunity a reality and hope your child(ren) enjoy their time at the ranch, no matter when they attend.
FAQs | ENROLLMENT LOGISTICS
While we do not offer refunds once programs are underway, we may also be able to offer a family credit (minus a $50 cancellation fee) if another customer purchases your spot. Credits are pro-rated to account for the value of the class the new family purchases.
Past requests have been met with the office putting your student’s spot online for another customer to purchase. Depending on if/how quickly we are able to resell your spot, we’ve been able to offer many families pro-rated family credit for the value of the class resold, minus a $50 administrative fee to use in a future session, camp or program.
- PreK-Kindergarten group classes usually have a 6:1 or 8:1 student to teacher ratio.
- 1st grade and up their class size increases to 8:1 or 10:1.
- Middle School Science program has a 12:1 ratio when it is at capacity.
WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE DAY LOOK LIKE?
After circle time the instructor will lead the group on the day’s adventure. Some weeks you will get to water the garden, other weeks you might collect fruit from the food forest. Every week will involve a visit to see at least one ranch animal (probably a few) and will also include a craft or cooking project.
Projects are different each week of the school year, so you’re welcome to sign up for one session or all four, especially if you’re excited to see the change of seasons at the ranch. Expect to wear rain jackets and boots in the winter, adventures go on rain or shine!
NOTE: Let’s Play at the Ranch is a one year curriculum. You’re welcome to take it two years in a row, but students who participate in LPR as 3 year-olds often choose to come for the drop off program, Junior Ranchers their second school year at Sienna Ranch.
Game time may be a formal round of tag, an imaginative time of horse galloping or any number of other activities designed to give students the chance to move their bodies and play. Once game time is over, if there are two Junior Ranchers classes, this is when they usually head on their own adventures, which will always include a story and snack or lunch break, an animal visit or two, and an additional enrichment activity that is different each week. Students might get a chance to work in the woodshop, visit with the horses, try their hand at archery or go on a hike. Students will bring home a few projects each quarter, but not every week.
One hallmark of the nature program is space for instructors to encourage students to take advantage of unstructured nature play and empowerment to be in charge of one’s own body, words, belongings and curiosity. With supervision and safe boundaries, we get excited about following the folly of student interest, sometimes leading a group into tire tunnel, up into the lookout tower or over to the swamp to search for wild plums. We hope that when you ask your student what they did at Junior Ranchers that they say something like, ‘WE PLAYED!’ since that is one of the main curricular goals of this program.
The end of class includes an instructor-led closing circle where the group reviews what they did that day, sharing one gratitude or favorite activity from their time at the ranch. Instructors help students gather their belongings and then bring them to the front of the ranch to meet with the adult taking them home.
NOTE: We have a 2-year curriculum for Junior Ranchers, so while there may be annual or seasonal traditions students are familiarized with year after year, projects and take home items are different between Year A and Year B.
Whether your student is in Jr. Woodshop (extension), Natural Building or Coyote Club Woodshop, the session will include a variety of hand-build take home projects, time spent out in nature doing natural structure building around the property and an increased body awareness with exposure to hand tools like hammers, files, hand drills, sanding blocks, clamps, screws, nails and paints. There may be occasional days that include ‘free build’, but most weeks will have guided activities meant to focus on different hand tool techniques (hammering, sawing, etc.)
NOTE: Woodshop programming is new each week, as instructors strive to offer fresh projects for students who return session after session. If you take part in multiple years of woodshop you might repeat a project or two, but for the most part we’re able to mix things up and give new students the support they need their first few weeks of class while challenging returning students to do more advanced work.
GROUP CLASS RIDING: At some point during the class (different week to week), we strive to give each student one-on-one mounted riding time with one of our Equestrian staff. Depending on age and experience, riding activities may be lead-line pony rides, vaulting (doing balance work on horseback), stretches to help develop proper riding posture, or a riding activity off lead line (less common).
We understand that mounted riding time is a highlight of each week of class and strive to provide this experience whenever possible. There will be times due to weather, horse health, etc. where riding will not be able to happen. We try our best to minimize these situations and appreciate you understanding that riding time is never guaranteed and is not made up when missed during group riding classes. When we are not able to ride, we spend time teaching students how we came to that decision, as it ultimately relates back to best practices for horse care and horse safety. We’ll let you know with a note home what we teach in the event there is a week students cannot ride.
NOTE: Most people take our group equestrian classes for one or two sessions, opting for Private Riding if they wish to gain further experience riding once they feel comfortable with the basics covered in the group class.
The instructor will hang a chain with sign designed to indicate that the archery range is in use and to direct all foot traffic safely around the back of the range while target practice is in session. Students assist with range setup, rolling targets to the distance they are working at (10-25 yards), hanging up the proper size target (as indicated by their instructor), choosing a safe length of arrow to shoot with and bringing the bow strung for them by the instructor to the bow rack at the covered archery range.
The instructor will indicate when it is safe for students to do a few rounds of warm up practice, giving careful attention to safety protocol as taught to students their first week of the session. Students wait for cues to shoot, retrieve arrows, etc. After warm up rounds most weeks consist of shooting to keep score on a Sienna Ranch score card. Sienna Ranch scoring gives students a way to work on individual form and technique goals, rewarded with Sienna Ranch patches and stars (as explained during class).
Students are welcome to participate recreationally without scoring, with the expectation that they will participate in target practice or sit out for one or two rounds quietly, without disrupting the other archers.
NOTE: The first week of each 8-week session does include a safety and equipment demonstration for all students, new and returning. We used to require new students to do a weekend Archery Intro class, but we’ve found it more effective to wrap this short introduction into the first day of each session to establish safety expectations for the class. Returning students are required to attend this lesson too and may get to help demonstrate proper form and technique to the new students in class.
Many students take multiple students of archery and love it! Others tire of the routine and may be more stimulated by changing into another program like pottery or woodshop. Check in with your archer after a few sessions and help us make the most of your child’s time at the ranch by requesting a transfer if they seem to be sitting out more than taking advantage of target practice.
While we do not have wheels for throwing pottery, hand building allows students to experiment with texture and slip/score technique to create unique, beautiful art. Our pottery coordinator starts each session with a clay exploration activity. Students also get a behind the scenes look at the kiln, learning the timeline for creating clay projects. Our pottery coordinator explains why it’s important to let projects dry completely before being bisque-fired, techniques for glazing /re-firing and the days it takes each round of work to cook in the kiln. This helps students understand the reason that the project they make one week might not be ready to take home for two or three more weeks following.
Pottery extension is one hour long, so students in this class will exclusively build, glaze and focus on pottery hand building technique. Coyote Club Pottery is 1.5 hours long, so about an hour of time will include work with clay or glazing and then the instructor will have students help with cleanup, ending with a game or visit to the animals (time-dependent).
NOTE: We return to the basics at the start of each quarter to accommodate new pottery students. Returning students are welcome to enroll in multiple sessions, as long as they know to expect the first week of the session to be a reminder of technique, pottery care and firing basics.
After 5-10 minutes of arrival time, all Explorers will join together for an opening circle, sharing one gratitude for the week, any nature news they wish to share, hearing from staff any nature or other program updates relevant to the week. Circle time takes about 10-15 minutes most days. Staff will help students enjoy this time by structuring a talking tool for sharing and empowering students who wish to share to demonstrate active listening while they wait their turn.
Explorers spend 15-20 minutes together after circle time playing a group game, which may happen up in the arena, down in the swamp or even in the romping zone. Group games may be gently competitive but usually involve a multi-round aspect to keep all players involved for the duration, never being ‘out’ for more than a few minutes at a time. Tag games, running games like ultimate frisbee or ‘Ravens and Wolves’ often become a highlight of each week since this is a time sets the tone for the day’s expectations of movement, play and laughter.
Once the group game is complete, each individual class (1st-2nd, 3rd-4th or 5th-6th) will split off from the large group with their instructor to complete the day’s schedule. Each staff will have two or three objectives for the day that often relates to the them or ‘certification’ for the session. Time is also set aside for staff to encourage unstructured nature play, exploring in the hills, time to visit with an animal or two and perhaps a visit to the garden or food forest. Curriculum is only loosely set, so each instructor (and each week) will be full of teachable moments based on student discoveries.
The last 10-15 minutes of Explorers includes a closing circle, giving students and their instructor a chance to reflect on the day’s activities, including any highlights or accomplishments the group achieved as individuals or all together. When you pick up your student and want to know what they did for the day, consider asking them, “What did you say was your favorite part of the day at closing circle?” This might prompt a more detailed reply than just asking how they enjoyed their day.
NOTE: Sienna Ranch has a 3-year curriculum for Explorers, so students can continue with our program and ‘graduate’ to an older age bracket (experiencing unique projects that are age-appropriate) by the time curriculum spirals back to a topic they’ve already experienced. We strive to offer at least one of these unique projects so that students have something to look forward to as they age through our program.
Explorers should can expect a number of seasonal traditions to repeat annually, including the fall acorn harvest, winter trade blanket and end of year Primitive Olympics. These highlights, mixed with different quarterly themes, help students learn a homesteading, survival and animal-themed skill each session.
Nature Sages will usually have one composite group of ~20 students with two staff teaching collaboratively. The group starts all together with an opening circle that is separate from younger students. Staff will lead the group in sharing their names and a gratitude, allowing space for students to also share any other discoveries from the week. Circle time is a useful forum in which staff can also explain any safety considerations for the day (regarding to weather, upcoming camp outs, etc), before joining up with the younger Explorers classes for a group game.
Group games are usually 15-20 minutes of time spent doing physical activity like ultimate frisbee, ‘Ravens and Wolves’ or one of the many varieties of tag games. Nature Sages have fun running and playing with younger students and can model sportsmanship to younger students who naturally look up to these teens as peer leaders.
Nature Sages separate from the large group when game time concludes, usually focusing on a project for the day that is likely to be homesteading or survival-themed. Nature Sages should expect to do tasks that are more nuanced and challenging than what younger Explorers accomplish. For example, one project may take 3-6 weeks to complete in Nature Sages (whereas younger Explorers projects usually only take 1-2 weeks to complete). Students are encouraged to embrace the challenges of more demanding project work and to seek their own solutions, although assistance from instructors is always available for those who need it.
Each week will likely also include exploration time which may be structured as group teambuilding or just a fun hike in preparation for a future backpacking trip. Students should be comfortable hiking on uneven terrain 1-2 miles with a small backpack carrying their lunch and should be ready to be outside the full class period, rain or shine.
Nature Sages will finish their day with a closing circle, reflecting on the accomplishments of the day the same as other Sienna Ranch students. Staff will bring Nature Sages back down to the front gated area at pickup.
NOTE: Nature Sages has a 3-year structure intended for 7th-9th graders. Take home projects may vary year to year, with one common spring project including a self-contained pack and shelter system students will get the chance to use on a end-of-year backpacking trip. Staff will communicate with parents throughout the year about camp outs and the end of year backpacking trip.
Middle School Science begins each day with an opening circle after students have checked in, allowing students to share their name and a gratitude or to answer a light-hearted prompt for the day. The instructor will then share the daily topic and schedule.
After circle, class time is usually divided into two 45 minute-1.25 hour blocks with a 30-40 minute snack break and exploration or game time in the middle. The blocks may include hands-on investigations, challenges, mysteries, written work, group work, oral presentations, quizzes, brief instructor-led lectures, or group discussions. Most days, instructors also plan for approximately 30 minutes spent playing with our animals or visiting our garden, food forest or orchard, and for a 10 minute discussion of a science news article which students get emailed during the week.
Class usually ends with a closing circle, taking time to answer any questions students have, distributing any necessary work samples that families may need to show their Education Specialist (ES) as well as any preview of what is to come in future weeks.
NOTE: Sienna Ranch has a 2-year rotating curriculum for 5th-6th grade middle school science, as well as a different 2-year rotating curriculum for 7th-8th grade science so that students can take all four years of science at the Ranch. Check the MS Science page of the website to see more information. Families receive a syllabus before each session begins, so while most weeks are cumulative, it is possible to cover key vocab and materials at home if a student misses a week of class. Check in with the office to see an example of a past MS Science syllabus. Sienna Ranch does not issue grades.
Private Riding Lessons begin and end up at the Horse Zone, the area beyond our educational garden. Parents escort their rider up to the Horse Zone for lessons and are welcome to stay and watch the lesson or depart for the hour and return at the end to pick up your student in the Horse Zone once the lesson is complete.
Each student will have a unique lesson personalized to their level of experience. In general, a student’s first Private Riding Lesson will start with a check to make sure footwear is safe for working with horses (we have a few pairs of boots your student may try on and borrow for the day if necessary), as well as an introduction to the way we stay safe working with horses (and the reasons behind those rules).
Once a student learns how to safely be near the horses on the ground they will take part in the grooming and tacking process, an important bonding period between student and animal, building trust for the exercises they will do together. This may take 5-10 minutes depending on the horse.
Mounted riding activities will vary from student to student and will strive to build a student’s confidence with English style technique. Our goal is to develop our students into well-rounded horse-people who are safe and confident around horses both on the ground and in the saddle.
See our website for our non-riding policy for Private Riding Students to learn how we handle rainy days, excessive heat or horse injury.
NOTE: Students are welcome to enroll for 1, 2, 3 or all 4 sessions of lessons. Riders are welcome back year-after year.