It's My Job: Josie Mundy - Woodson Branch Nature SchoolJul 28, 2023 02:07PM ● By Randee Brown
For Josie Mundy, working with children in an alternative education program and seeing the world through their eyes creates the perfect job for her.
Woodson Branch Nature School is a private K-8 school in Madison County that fosters a holistic approach to education by including experiential lessons in the classroom and in nature. Mundy began working with the school’s Founder, Deborah DeLisle, at Hot Springs Community Preschool in 2008 and transitioned to her current position with WBNS at the start of the school’s second year in 2017.
“Our school values academics as well as teamwork, critical thinking, and how we interact with the earth, as well as social/emotional aspects like centering and how to follow through when we experience strong feelings,” Mundy said. “This helps them become better all-around members of the community.”
Mundy said she wears a lot of hats as Director, making sure everything is running smoothly. Since the school doesn’t have as many indoor spaces as a traditional school and the students are outdoors in all types of weather, she helps to make sure all the kids are dressed well for rain or snow.
Other tasks include helping to facilitate any changes in parent’s pick-up times, caring for children who are not feeling well until their parents pick them up, and helping configure substitute teachers if necessary, occasionally stepping in to cover classes.
“I love when I get to sub in a classroom or be a volunteer reader,” Mundy said. “Reading is so valuable, and I love to read with lots of emotion to help the kids picture the story.”
A large part of the Director of School Operations position at WBNS also involves evaluating the curriculum to learn what the school is lacking, then reaching out to people offering just that, according to Mundy. She said she often reaches out to people and programs offering hands-on and body-movement activities and nature-based programs like the Forest Service and the Nature Center to complement the existing specials offered such as Outdoor Education, Survival, and Agriculture.
“We get to play around with the curriculum and build it to what we value is important,” Mundy said. “We are currently looking at adding music and perhaps foreign language. We will be adding a new STEAM lab to open this fall which will include a 3D printer and engraver, GoPro cameras and drones, claymation materials, an interactive SMART Board, and more. We will be incorporating a lot of STEAM lessons and using this lab with each grade level, and to think about all the possibilities is so exciting.”
Mundy said she also plays a large role in organizing fundraising events for the school, which she said are also unique and geared toward bringing the community together. These events include the infamous Muck Boot Ball, the Appalachian Heritage Festival, and a BBQ and plant sale.
“Students are deeply involved in each of these events,” Mundy said. “The kids help jar and make the labels for lavender honey made with campus-grown lavender. They sell pumpkins that they helped grow in our garden. They sow the seeds and make the markers for all of the starter plants in our plant sale. We fundraise with events aligned with who we are and our goals and passions, not things for parents to buy out of a catalog. We put love and energy into each thing we plant and sow and make here.”
Working at WBNS aligns with the values of her entire family, according to Mundy. “My mom, husband, and daughter work here, and I have a son attending school here,” she said. “We build relationships with the students in different ways, and it’s really nice to be able to go to work and come home together. We are an active family, and it’s great to work here in the fresh air and sunshine while supporting an alternative education program that truly listens to the needs of the children.”
Josie Mundy is the Director of Operations at Woodson Branch Nature School. Learn more about WBNS at MadisonCCLC.org.