Kristin Hammer, owner of Nature Together, helps a stuck Lincoln Mays, 3, climb out of a tree stump in an area the kids call the “pirate ship” in Japanese Gulch. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Kristin Hammer, owner of Nature Together, helps a stuck Lincoln Mays, 3, climb out of a tree stump in an area the kids call the “pirate ship” in Japanese Gulch. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

This Mukilteo shop owner will help you get back to nature

Kristin Hammer owns Nature Together, an outdoors store that also offers classes for kids and adults.

How life can change by happenstance.

Kristin Hammer was pursuing an undergraduate degree in biology. In the summers, she took jobs over several years banding birds in South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and California.

Children’s summer camps would sometimes drop by the ornithology lab near Big Sur where she was working.

“No one was excited about doing the tours,” she said. “I really enjoyed it. That’s when I realized I enjoyed teaching.”

Hammer went on to earn a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in environmental education. She began working at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois.

“I would give tours,” she said. “It was the preschool age that I absolutely loved and knew I wanted to do an outdoor preschool with someday.”

Someday was the key word. She didn’t know how she could make that happen.

The answer began to take shape after a move she and her family made eight years ago from Illinois to Mukilteo.

“Once we moved to Washington, I was in awe of the beauty here,” she said. Yet as the mother of what was then a 3-year-old son herself, she was struck by what was missing.

“I would go to parks and say, ‘Where are all the families?’”

Two years ago, Hammer began offering parent-child classes at Mukilteo’s 92nd Street Park for kids 2 to 6 years old. “I did that to get parents excited about being outdoors with their kids,” she said.

At Nature Together, shop manager Susan Mays looks for a spot for a candle. The store offers sketch classes for adults and nature-themed story times, outdoor classes and birthday parties for kids. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

At Nature Together, shop manager Susan Mays looks for a spot for a candle. The store offers sketch classes for adults and nature-themed story times, outdoor classes and birthday parties for kids. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

That experience led to realizing her dream of establishing her own preschool for 3- to 5-year-olds. It launched last fall with 10 kids and two teachers per class.

It isn’t your typical preschool. This is a class where it’s OK for kids to get a little muddy or scramble around in the woods.

The classes are held in Japanese Gulch, where they learn about the creatures that live there — hearing woodpeckers drilling their homes in trees and watching tadpoles transform from thumbnail-sized ovals with tails into frogs.

Four-year-old Aiden Carli attends twice a week. He likes telling his dad, Bryan Carli, about the animals and plants they find.

“That’s what he gets excited about — mushrooms and tadpoles and the different birds they’ve identified,” his dad said. “We wanted him to get outdoors and have hands-on playtime. I think nature is an amazing way to learn.”

Heather Seguine said her son Emmett, 4, has started calling Japanese Gulch “my forest.”

“It’s so neat to see all his energy and excitement go into learning about the world around him,” she said. “We saw something growing on a tree and he said, ‘That’s lichen!’ He’s learning so much.”

Heidi Hagens said her son, Sawyer, 4, always enjoys the class, rain or shine. “He’s just become so much more observant when we go on walks together,” she said, pointing out woodpecker holes or mushrooms along the path.

Even as her classes were filling up, Hammer, 41, still wanted to add one more thing — a shop where children could come for nature-related story times and where adults could learn from an artist about nature sketching.

“To Live on an Island”

“To Live on an Island”

The 950-square-foot store called Nature Together opened on March 2. “We have something for every age, from babies to adults,” Hammer said. “We’re trying to get people excited about the outdoors.”

More things are planned. A therapy dog is scheduled to come to the store for story time the first Monday of every month.

She hopes to start a program where seniors work with the preschoolers in her classes, taking hikes with them at Japanese Gulch, reading to them or eating lunch with them.

And the first of what she hopes will be an ongoing series of book signings is scheduled for June, with a book illustrated by Everett watercolor artist Elizabeth Person.

Hammer said she cried tears of joy the day the store opened, reflecting on what had begun with a random thought, a hunch, a wish, 14 years before. “I had dreamed of having my own store for years,” she said.

“When I think about how this all unfolded, every experience I’ve had built upon what I’ve created today.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

Nature Together, 619 Fourth St., Suite C, Mukilteo, sells nature books, clothing, toys, jewelry, home and lifestyle accessories. Gear includes rain boots and rain suits for kids and sweatshirts and T-shirts for adults. The store also offers sketch classes for adults and nature-themed story times, outdoor classes and birthday parties for kids ages 2 to 6.

Store hours in May are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Closed Tuesday. Hours increase next month for the summer.

Call 425-322-4747 or go to www.explorenaturetogether.com.

Author event

A book signing for “To Live on an Island,” illustrated by Everett artist Elizabeth Person, is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. June 22 at the store. More at tinyurl.com/islandbook.

Talk to us

More in Life

Darlene Love, Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer  performed in concert at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on Sept. 12, 2015.
Pandemic’s not stopping Christmas Queen Darlene Love

The singer best known for “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will perform her annual holiday concert online this year.

roses
A gardener’s to-do list for winterizing the yard — Part 2

Try to accomplish most of these chores, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get them all done.

Caleb Sanders and Ashley Dougherty help decorate for the Trees of Christmas event at the Everett Bible Baptist Church. (Maria Lara)
Church keeps Christmas tradition alive with drive-thru event

Everett Bible Baptist Church hosts Trees of Christmas, with music, narration and special treats for the family.

Mexican sedum is an excellent groundcover plant, forming a dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Sedum kimnachii aka Mexican sedum

An excellent groundcover plant, this variety forms a flat, dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves.

Make holidays brighter with energy saving tips and gifts

Snohomish County PUD shares five smart ways to find joy in the season that use less electricity.

John Spadam owner, at Spada Farmhouse Brewery in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Spada ready to show off new bar and restaurant in Snohomish

During the pandemic, the Spada family has been busy renovating an old building on First Street.

Precept Wine, the largest privately-owned wine company in Washington, recruited Seattle native Sarah Cabot to take over its pinot noir production in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2014. (Precept Wine)
Six examples of award-winning pinot noir in the Northwest

The Willamette Valley of Oregon has a reputation for the red wine, but there are other success stories in the area.

To deposit a coin in the Bonzo bank, you had to push his tummy. His tongue would come out of his mouth to deposit the coin inside. Many similar banks were made picturing other comic characters. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Mechanical bank of the first famous Bonzo sells for $1,800

The dog decorating the front of the tin bank was a comic cartoon star from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Design elements of the M235i Gran Coupe include angled headlights, four-eyed halo daytime running lights, and BMW’s traditional kidney grille. (Manufacturer photo)
BMW’s compact 2 Series Gran Coupe is all new to the 2020 lineup

A turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and 8-speed automatic transmission are standard on both versions.

Most Read