Home / News / Apple Blossom Village hosts Halloween walk to support purchase of outdoor yurts

Apple Blossom Village hosts Halloween walk to support purchase of outdoor yurts

Aug 01, 2023Aug 01, 2023

BEMIDJI — An enchanted evening awaited community members at Apple Blossom Village's outdoor space by the Rail River Folk School, which had been transformed into a Halloween walk on Friday and Saturday.

Lined with jack-o’-lanterns creatively carved by families from the outdoor immersion school, children and parents alike could walk the path in their Halloween costumes with occasional stops for stories, a campfire, homemade applesauce and other festive fun.

Being held as a fundraiser for the school — currently serving preschool through third grade — funds from admission and an Autumn Bake Shoppe will go toward repayment of the school's two yurts, which are structures that resemble tents and are covered with felted wool.

Incorporated into the Halloween walk, both yurts have been the site of the Apple Blossom Village's school since classes started this fall, making it easier for the school to fully immerse its students in the great outdoors.

"I absolutely love that we’re right outside and we can so easily step out … and be immersed in seasonal learning and nature," Director Dacia Dauner said. "There are times where (a class) is interrupted by an eagle flying over or we see ducks walking along the shore. We all just turn, watch and learn about those animals hands-on."


Apple Blossom Village started as a kindergarten-only "micro-school" in 2016 with Dauner taking inspiration from Waldorf philosophy.

"The concept for Apple Blossom Village took root in the idea to bring learning in a natural way through exploration of the outside world, imaginative play, creative arts and practical life activities," the Apple Blossom website states.

Having completed Waldorf training, Dauner added, "I just fell in love with the philosophy and kept going back for more training for older grades. As my kids got older, I thought ‘we need a school like this.’"

The school eventually grew to include preschool through third grade, and Dauner notes plans to add fourth grade for next school year. The school is mainly funded by tuition paying for teaching staff, rent at Rail River, food and other supplies — though the school has received a grant from Peacemaker Resources to provide social and emotional learning resources.

Prior to this year, Apple Blossom operated out of one yurt owned by the Indigenous Environmental Network, which also has office space in the Rail River Folk School. However, Apple Blossom had to move inside Rail River once the winter months came around.

"We were able to share their yurt to start some of our outdoor programming, but we didn't stay outside all year round," Dauner said. "We would move in between October and November for the winter, then come back out (in the spring)."

Also referencing the IEN's own programming and spacing needs, Apple Blossom staff decided it was time to become an all-year-long outdoor school with their own authentic Mongolian yurts acquired through the company, Groovy Yurts.

"We’ve raised enough funds for half of one yurt. The other half went on my credit card," Dauner noted. "For the second yurt, Groovy Yurts gave us a loan and is giving us a year to pay it off. But it's above and beyond our normal operating budget, so we’re holding these family events to raise the funds and have fun at the same time."


Totaling around $35,000, the yurts are 22 feet in diameter and each can hold up to 16 people. The school currently has 26 enrolled students split between the two yurts.

According to Dauner, the yurts were handmade by Mongolian families and insulated with wool felt from sheep in Mongolia. Horsehair rope that is wrapped around the yurts’ perimeters is expected to last a couple of years, and the school purchased clear vinyl covers to keep the rain out but allow light into the outdoor classrooms.

In preparation for winter, the school purchased stoves and chimneys to heat the yurts once temperatures plummet. Along with securing the outdoor classrooms with additional rope, German teacher Ann Skoe looks forward to making use of the spaces once the snow sticks.

"What I’m looking forward to is having easier transitions with just being outside and not having to have the whole group ready at the same time to come in or out (of Rail River)," Skoe mentioned. "We should let children have a chance to be in beautiful spaces, have time in the smaller groups and let them really enjoy their childhoods."

The new site gives students a chance to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into their classroom and benefits them in many other ways, Skoe mentioned.

"Playing outside and being active has always been good for children," Skoe said. "Kids need that time to learn to play together, learn to take turns, to negotiate with each other, use their imaginations … and being outdoors makes it easier."

Dauner added that funds will also support Apple Blossom's summer camps, an opportunity for the broader community to get involved with the school.


"We can have 20 kids per camp, so (the school) is reaching a wider audience," Dauner said. "(The community) is benefitting from us having the yurts and being in a place where we can garden, do composting and all those things we can do at our summer camps."

Dauner detailed other ways that people can support the school during its transition including fundraisers that will take place in the upcoming winter. Dauner said the Apple Blossom Village Facebook page provides the most up-to-date information on future events.

The public can also donate to the "Apple Blossom Yurt Fundraiser" GoFundMe page, which has raised nearly $13,000 out of a $20,000 goal as of Monday, Oct. 31.

More information can be found at