Our team

Maria Arefieva

Founder & Owner
Lead Instructor

Kelsey Lucero

Assistant Instructor

Valentina Arefieva

Crafts Instructor

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”

We believe that education should be a creative way of reaching each child’s inner potential and igniting that child’s desire to discover more about himself or herself and the world as a whole. That teaching and learning are best done in the natural setting, not in windowless rooms. That children ought to be in motion as much as possible for their optimum physical and mental development. And that nature’s touch is essential for a child’s well-being.

Please scroll down to meet us up close! And if you have any questions for any of us – please do not hesitate to reach out.

Maria Arefieva

Founder/Owner
Lead Instructor

First Aid / CPR , Colorado State Background Checks

“We wanted children to learn about the world surrounding them while having first-hand experience interacting with it, not simply through books or screens.

“Thus came about Real Red Riding Hoods forest school.”

Hello, my name is Maria. I’m the owner of Real Red Riding Hoods forest school and I want to welcome you to our website.

Starting from the age of 3, I grew up spending my summers hiking and camping. Fast forward 30+ years and I became a mother to a little boy, and then shortly afterwards to another one. It’s important to me to raise our children with the same love for nature and joy from being a part of it that my parents instilled in me while growing up.

And so my husband and I decided to create a school that would be a place where children could learn, create and make friends while spending all or most of their time outdoors in the beautiful Colorado landscape. A place where they could run in any direction, climb, throw rocks and pine cones, or lay on the ground watching clouds move across the sky and listen to sounds of birds. We wanted children to learn about the world surrounding them while having first-hand experience interacting with it, not simply through books or screens.

Thus came about Real Red Riding Hoods forest school.

Colorado Springs forest school outdoor enrichment program

By trade my husband and I are programmers. Prior to motherhood I owned my own web and graphic design business, and also worked and volunteered in non-profit organizations, including a disaster relief in Philippines after 2013 tsunami. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, one of Russia’s top Universities. Yes, my degree is in physics and math, as I dreamed of becoming an astronaut after graduation 🙂

Colorado Springs forest school outdoor enrichment program

While I do not have a degree in childhood education, I have come to know many homeschooling parents who have shown that providing the highest level of education for children outside of an educational institution is not only possible, but also offers children many unique opportunities otherwise inaccessible in a conventional preschool/daycare setting.

“… providing the highest level of education for children outside of an educational institution is not only possible, but also offers children many unique opportunities otherwise inaccessible in a conventional preschool/daycare setting”

I invite you to browse our Blog and Program & Activities page to learn about our many beautiful activities in more detail. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or to schedule a tour to see our program in person. I look forward to meeting you and your little wildling one day.

Kelsey Lucero

Assistant Instructor

“… I was introduced to the Real Red Riding Hoods Forest School and here I saw pure wonder, passion, and purpose. In my time here, I’ve found hope for our next generation and their connection to themselves, each other and our Earth.

Hola! My name is Kelsey and I was born and raised in our beautiful, colorful Colorado Springs. When it comes to helping children grow up to be strong-minded and capable human beings I am a very firm believer in the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. By exhibiting empathy, acceptance, and a spirit of inquiry on a daily basis, my aspiration is for children I work with to reciprocate a positive outlook, foster a curiosity for knowledge, and build upon their aspirations.

I pursued my education at UCCS where I received a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Sociology with an emphasis in Communication. As a student I had a strong interest in understanding the structures of the education system through a social lens and observing the way in which societal structures effect human development. After graduating with my degree I moved to Denver to work in a non-profit organization that assists under-resourced and under-privileged schools in the inner city. In my time there I saw firsthand the lack of opportunity and resilience that exists in a traditional four-walled classroom. I worked in family homes as a nanny, household manager and housekeeper for the remainder of my time in Denver.

As much as I loved and learned from living in the city, my heart missed the access to nature, so in September of 2020 I decided to move back down to the Springs to answer my heart’s calling. Upon moving back home I was introduced to the Real Red Riding Hoods Forest School and here I saw pure wonder, passion, and purpose. In my time here, I’ve found hope for our next generation and their connection to themselves, each other and our Earth.

Valentina Arefieva

Crafts Instructor (available in summer)

Maria here again. I wanted to introduce you to my mom, Valentina, without whom our forest school wouldn’t be the same. Together we have remodeled the school cabin at our Palmer Lake location, cleaned the premises, and built various obstacle courses. Valentina is the one who always makes sure there is hot cocoa for the children to take with us on the forest hikes in the winter, and that there is a fire crackling in the wood stove at the cabin when we came back from playing in the snow.

She also is the one who creates all the beautiful hand-made objects throughout the school — from cozy nap time bedding to hand-made dolls used for storytelling by Adriana.

All our beautiful playdough sculpting projects at our Palmer Lake location were taught by her and you can see many of them in this post. Other one-on-one classes we are planning to introduce this summer are sewing, wood-working and gardening.

Real Red Riding Hoods forest school
Colorado Springs, CO

(719) 960-0612