Children's Discovery Ranch
Our Mission

What We Stand For

Celebrating childhood is our mission statement. Our school family provides a warm, nurturing learning environment that provides children with daily opportunities for discovery based learning.  We believe that children’s interactions with the natural world provides an ideal learning environment to foster curiosity and joy.  By spending time in nature, children have the opportunity to fully engage all of their senses through hands on experiences, observation, experimentation, and real discovery. Outdoor opportunities in the early years support healthy growth and development which builds valuable skills that will last a lifetime. 



Teaching For the Future

The Hummingbird Room is designed for our youngest children and is often their first experience away from home. Toddlers aged 2-3 years are welcomed into our school family through loving, nurturing, supportive teachers. The Hummingbird teachers strive to help children develop their first connections and friendships outside of their family. These connections continue and strengthen as they move on to other classrooms and beyond. The Hummingbird’s are supported as they learn about being in a group, educational environment. We celebrate childhood through daily, age appropriate play and nature-based experiences to strengthen their healthy growth and development. Through a hands-on, child led approach to learning, children enjoy many exploratory opportunities both inside the classroom and outside. Our unique location allows for lots of time to experience the wonder of the outdoors in a beautiful, natural environment. Fun sensory experiences, a language and literacy emphasis, music, movement, process focused art experiences and introductions to cognitive games and activities provide daily fun which strengthens the development of the whole child.


Children who range in the age from 2.5 to 4 years enjoy their days in the Dragonfly Room. Through a play-based curriculum, children are introduced to opportunities for age appropriate growth in language, math, literacy, music, movement, arts/crafts, sensory exploration and cognitive development. The Conscious Discipline approach is incorporated into our classroom relationships and daily routines to teach social/emotional skills, resiliency, problem solving, safety, intrinsic values and other life time social skills. We are fortunate to be located in a lovely, home-like environment which helps to strengthen a school family, “home away from home” feeling. The small classroom size and low teacher to child ratio allow us to build nurturing connections and meet the individual needs of each child. Our natural ranch environment fosters numerous outdoor opportunities for learning about and appreciating nature.


The Sunflower room is the Pre K classroom at the Children’s Discovery Ranch and serves children ages 4-5 years during the school year, then 4-7 years during the summer. We have three talented teachers who love to play, learn, and grow with the children. Our Sunflower classroom is very adventurous and hands-on, a place where children can explore while learning. We strongly value play and nature-based experiences for young children and spend lots of time in the outdoors. Teachers embrace an emergent, child directed learning approach. We give children a safe place to feel nurtured and loved and encourage their independence so they can succeed in the next stages of learning and growing. Recognizing that healthy social/emotional development is crucial for building lifelong resiliency skills, we incorporate the Conscious Discipline approach in our classroom relationships and daily routines. We are working on being a bi-lingual classroom. We strive to honor our children and their individual needs with our low teacher to child ratio. We believe the more teachers in the classroom provide plenty of one on one time with each child.


A place to

Explore                                          Discover                                        Grow


Our Early Learning Center can be found on the stunning Historic Hutchinson Ranch, between Salida & Poncha Springs, Colorado. Being on a working ranch provides us with abundant learning opportunities. We often find ourselves out exploring the many acres surrounding the school, saying hello to Delbert the donkey, racing around the playground and discovering the natural world around us. 

Stay Connected


Discovery Days 

Stay in the loop on family oriented events, activities and resources happening in the Salida area by following our Facebook page. 


Meet our Founder

Kathi Wardlow

 My daughter, Hanna, deserves much of the credit for steering me in the direction of early childhood education. She was 3 years old and I was in my senior year at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, finishing up my Bachelors Degree in Art and Design. An opportunity arose for me to assist the Art teacher at her preschool in Crested Butte. I quickly realized that I really loved working with preschool age children, especially being able to provide them lots of creative experiences.  I was offered a teaching position at her school, and under the mentorship of several amazing teachers I began a new journey in educating young children.
  Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of wonderful children and families in Crested Butte, the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii and in Salida. I’ve taken many, many Early Childhood Education classes and professional development trainings over the years earning credentials and certifications as Director and Lead Teacher.
  When my husband Rusty, Hanna and I moved to Salida in 2004 I quickly became aware of the need for more high-quality preschool options for local children and families. Two’s Early Learning was born! What began 14 years ago as a very small program for just 2 year old’s has evolved into a large, center based program with 50 enrolled children, ages 2-8 years. The 2015 expansion and relocation to the beautiful Hutchinson Ranch gave the school, now known as Children’s Discovery Ranch, an amazing opportunity to combine it’s creative roots with a nature based, exploratory environment.
  I feel truly blessed to have played an important role in the lives of so many children in their early years. I am incredibly grateful for the teachers of CDR who give so much of themselves to love and care for each child and make our school a truly unique place.


Meet our Teachers

I’ve worked in the Child Care/Preschool field for over 25 years in different areas from a Floater/Classroom Aide to Lead Teacher to Director/Owner of an Infant and Toddler Child Care business. I am Director Qualified and working on completing my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. I am truly blessed to be working with the Children’s Discovery Ranch team, children and families.


Assistant Director, Dragonfly Teacher

Children have enthralled me my entire life. Although my professional life led me into
graphics, newspapers, purchasing, two self-employment businesses, being a CNA,
proofreading financial publications, and front desk management, I saved the best
possible job, probably my last, to be at the Ranch, where I am surrounded by the
biggest, brightest miracles ever, your children, the world’s children.
There are two things that ground me in my life: hiking and hanging out with the most
authentic beings out there, and that is children. I’m beyond blessed to be the
grandmother to Tanner (16), Evalie (7), and Ellia (6), who live in northern
Colorado with their parental units (Kaley and Corey). My husband Tom is my rock,
my hero, my inspiration, and has been for 32 years. I am originally from Wisconsin
and have lived by the life-giving beaches of Southern Cal, the prairies of Wyoming,
and the mountains of Montana before moving to Salida seven years ago.


Dragonfly Teacher

My name is Savanna and I recently relocated to Howard in order to be closer to my family. I have spent the last four years as an Early Childhood Teacher in Telluride. I have experience with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

I love working with children because they inspire me, and every moment with them is a learning experience. I feel that teaching young children is one of the most important jobs there is! On my free time I love to be outside, play violin and be with my two dogs. I am so grateful to join the Children’s Discovery Ranch and cannot wait to meet and form relationships with you all.


Dragonfly Teacher


Classroom Assistant

I have my A.A in Child development.  I have been working with young children for 10+ years as a nanny and/or in a classroom setting. My favorite thing about being a teacher is watching children grow into their own personalities. I also believe children learn the best in messy, fun play where they can be free.

I have two beautiful and very energetic children, Hunter and Charlotte. I spend my free time with my children hiking and exploring this beautiful town. We love to watch movies, playing games, and being outside.


Sunflower Teacher

Hi! I’m Amy. I have been an Early Childhood Educator for over 20 years and am a proud mother of two amazing grown daughters.  I absolutely love helping and watching young children learn and grow, and nurturing their curiosity, creativity, and independence.

I have had the privilege of teaching, and learning, in many different settings over the years, and am excited to get to bring my experience to the ranch and to get to know you and your children!


Sunflower Teacher


Sunflower Teacher , Education Coordinator

I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Because of my family’s Irish background, English was spoken at my house and my Mom was able to teach at bilingual schools in Argentina, which I was able to attend. I think knowing a second language is what started the trickle effect of being here today.

 In the Spring of 2021, I was lucky enough to be offered a teaching position at CDR in the Sunflower Room. I’m still able to teach Spanish to ALL the children at CDR, too. This is the best job I have ever had and I am so grateful for having learned a second language that has opened so many doors in life for me. It is a true gift to be able to teach Spanish to others and to spend my days teaching and learning with the children at the Ranch.


Sunflower Teacher, Spanish Teacher

I am proud to be a teacher in the Two Year Old classroom here at Children’s Discovery Ranch.  
 I LOVE working with young children and am so proud to have worked with Kathi over the past years.
  I have worked with different ages from infants up to five-year-olds professionally and am Lead Teacher Certified. I also have my Associates’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.

My favorite thing about being a teacher is building relationships with the kids and helping them build relationships with each other. It fills my heart with joy when we are all having fun exploring, playing and becoming a little family in our classroom!


Hummingbird Teacher

Hello! My name is Tara Reed and I help manage the administrative and accounting responsibilities at the Ranch. My formal education is in liberal arts, with a Bachelors in Sociology and Philosophy and an Associates in Psychology and Anthropology, however my work has always been centered in managing business finances. I joined the team of wonderful teachers at the Ranch in the Fall of 2019 when my daughter started attending school. Having grown up on a small, centennial farm in Michigan, I feel right at home on the Ranch and enjoy seeing my daughter learn about life on the Ranch. In my spare time I enjoy hiking and camping around the beautiful state of Colorado, as well as gardening at our Salida home. I am so grateful to be part of the beautiful Ranch Family!


Administrative & Accounting Support


Classroom Assistant


After School programs


Years Established

Get In Touch

Location: 9104 W Hwy 50 Hutchinson Ranch Salida, CO

Telephone: (719) 207-3778

Email: childrensdiscoveryranch@gmail.com

School Hours: M-Th: 7:45 am – 5:00 pm