Our Village School

Together, we are raising up a generation of passionate, self-directed learners who find joy in exploration and discovery. . . because it truly does take a village.

Once upon a time...

In the center of a village, down a winding path, there stood a school. This was no ordinary school. This was a place where wonder, dreams and imagination were embraced. Where children could dive deeper into areas that interested them. Where classes such as cooking, art and fitness were center stage rather than tossed to the side. The children spent ample time in the fresh air with the grass beneath their feet. Altogether they felt both at peace and excited to learn. After all, they had arrived not through crowded hallways but by way of a quiet walk in the woods. The families adored this place because it allowed them opportunities to enrich their child's education. Rather than driving all over town, pursuing an overwhelming amount of activities, they found it all in one place. Finally their children could dabble in watercolor, practice mindfulness in yoga, and learn about healthy eating without crisscrossing the metro.

Sound too good to be true?

Our Village School was born out of this fairytale and strives to make it a reality. We are redefining "school" as we create a fresh space to inspire a generation of lifelong learners. Our program encourages exploration in areas that are relevant, fun, and foster a love of learning. All while providing ample time outdoors in a beautiful natural setting.

We strive to provide a place where the traditional model and homeschool model can coexist in harmony. Homeschool at your own pace in core subjects, enjoying the freedom and personalization of that model. Then come visit Our Village School two days a week for community, socialization and a deeper dive into the finer things of life. Finally a balanced model with the best of both worlds.

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Meet Our Guides!

Our talented guides are the heart of Our Village School. They are the best of the best in our community - the Village Experts. This is a dedicated team of individuals passionate about helping to raise up a generation of lifelong learners.

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Maria Stalsberg

Founder/Director/Makerspace Guide

Our Village School is the fairytale I've been dreaming about for years. Holding my Master's degree in teaching, I adored my time in the classroom until it was time to step away and raise up my own tribe of Littles. However, after sending my eldest to school, I found myself longing for a fresh approach to education. One that embraced the wonder of childhood and existed to cater to the individual learner—all while providing ample time outdoors. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, I stumbled into the fresh approach I'd been craving—homeschooling. Identifying with the fears of isolation and inadequacy when it comes to schooling at home, I set out to finally bring that fairytale to life.

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Aaron Strawn

Aaron is an entrepreneur with a passion for drama. His 14-year career working with children and theatre inspired him to launch Drama Lab, an after school program that has enrolled over 1000 students in 40+ locations. Drama Lab is committed to helping kids grow in confidence and find acceptance all within an interactive and fun environment! When Aaron isn’t dreaming up new ideas, he loves to be home with his family, watch hockey, DJ weddings, and hunt down the most current techie toys.

Shannon Perez

Explorer Anchor

Shannon has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and biology. She has extensive experience working with children at daycares, as a nanny, and working with children with Autism, Aspergers, and Special Needs. She enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 children outdoors playing sports, hiking, camping, and swimming at the beach. At home she enjoys listening to scientific podcasts, learning about holistic remedies, gardening, home projects, candle making, bread making, and a variety of crafts. She looks forward to her first year at OVS and connecting with her Wednesday students!

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Rita Ryan


Rita Ryan is a local artist who has showcased her pieces locally at the Lakeville Area Performing Arts Center. She is also a retired Lakeville teacher and most importantly a grandmother. Her passion is helping children unleash their creative spirit through art. She has a knack for developing and coaching budding artists to help them discover and refine their unique artistic abilities.

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Neal Meier

Chef Neal Meier is a local chef who is classically trained, but focuses primarily on healthy eating. He recently launched his own meal prep business, Chef Neal's Healthy Meals, and wants to help busy families and individuals to eat better. His passion is to help fight childhood obesity and wants to empower kids by teaching them how to cook and make healthier choices.
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John Zweber

John is a Master Gardener and certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. He leads classes in Dakota County on vegetable gardening and regularly teaches in the local schools, garden clubs and organizations. When he's not running his garden business, Easy Gardens by John or selling at the Prior Lake Farmer's market, he's caring for his own mini homestead! You can find him out back tending to his beehives, fruit trees, raised beds or flock of chickens.
Nick Swenson

Nick Swenson

Explorer Anchor

Nick has a Bachelor's in Economics from the University of Minnesota and has a variety of working experience from quality assurance to metal fabrication. He enjoys all board games - from Sequence to Dungeons & Dragons! Most of his time is spent at his hobby farm in Southern MN caring for goats & chickens, testing out his gardening skills, and building useful things.

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Leah Darst

Leah has been a naturalist for multiple MN nature centers and the MN Zoo for nearly 20 years. In 2020 she started her own business, Nature Enthusiations LLC, to share her passion and enthusiasm for nature. She loves exploring, sharing, connecting, and learning with people of all ages. Though she's excited about all things nature, this 'bug lady' is especially interested in insects and other invertebrates, and absolutely loves it when the people around her share their own insect discoveries! She also enjoys photography and taking her basset hound on sniffaris.

Jennifer Ackland

Anchor & Music

Jennifer is a Board-Certified Music Therapist & owner of Musical Safari. She has worked as a Music Therapist in a variety of settings such as Fraser School, ISD #196, The Wilder Foundation and numerous preschools, senior facilities and day programs in the south metro. She also teaches piano lessons. Jennifer lives in Apple Valley with her husband Brian and her two children. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, playing volleyball, going to movies and spending time with family and friends!


Anna Gaffaney

Anna is a certified youth fitness instructor and owner of Stretch-n-Grow of Dakota County. Stretch-n-Grow specializes in high quality, fun exercise experiences that keep kids moving, including: fitness, dance, gymnastics, sports and yoga. She is also a mother of 4 children and has a passion for helping kids become the best version of themselves!

Claire Shaw


Claire graduated from Wartburg College in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. Claire is from Rosemount, Minnesota and lives with her mom, Kay, brother, Grant, and their little dog named Desi. Claire enjoys singing, playing various instruments, and traveling around the world!

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Lanny Lundquist


As a former product designer and middle school teacher, Lanny has a passion for creating and leading. He has a broad knowledge of design, tools and materials after owning and operating a manufacturing company for 30 years. Lanny's approach is to encourage our students by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to design and make things with their own two hands. Now, semi-retired, he lives with his wife in Prior Lake.


Laura Chapeau

Adventurer Anchor

Laura has a Masters degree in Social Work, and has experience working with children and families in a variety of settings, most recently as a School Social Worker. Laura recently began homeschooling her children, two of which attend Our Village School! She enjoys family time including baking, exploring nature, playing games, traveling, & adventuring together!


Brian Fish

Kids Inc.

Brian has been a business owner for over 20 years and currently coaches and consults small business owners. Brian’s businesses have spanned industries including restaurants, retail, health and wellness, and real estate. Brian is passionate about helping young people find and create possibilities and opportunities to live a life of their own design. Originally from Wisconsin, Brian earned a degree in Finance from the University of Arizona. He then learned how to wear all the hats in a business when he opened his own golf store in Florida at the age of 23. He believes deeply in forging your own path by trusting your intuition. Brian and his wife Heidi have twin girls, Alida and Lucie, and reside in Lakeville. He enjoys Crossfit, golf, skiing, writing, and home improvement projects.


Gina Zeidler


Gina has been a professional photographer in the Twin Cities since 2008. Each year she photographs hundreds of families in all life stages from engagements to weddings and newborns to extended families. Gina has a heart for mentoring up and coming photographers. She was born and raised in the Twin Cities where she currently lives with her husband, Matt, homeschools her son and spoils her pup, Mya.


Our village school is amazing! My child loved every class and looked forward to going here each week. I would HIGHLY recommend OVS to anyone. Maria and her whole team are absolutely amazing and truly care about each and every kid. I am so grateful for the experiences my child gained here! -Laura Carlson

Our Village School is an incredible place where kids are able to explore awesome areas of learning, from arts to drama to science, while also spending the day outside and interacting with peers. I can’t say enough about how much they loved it, and also the high quality of the programs, learning, and coordination of all the details. Thank you for such a wonderful experience! - Laura Chapeau

I cannot say enough positive things about The Village School! Maria has created an incredible community and our kiddo enjoyed every class. The rain, cold and heat didn’t stop him from wanting to go each day. So grateful for the opportunity for kids to engage in classes outside and subjects that are fun and different. Maria was wonderful and we couldn’t ask for a better teacher and leader for these kids to be with! Highly recommend! -Emily Tomes

Our Village School is the perfect complement to homeschooling, providing excellent socialization and learning opportunities in the best classroom ever- nature! The best guides and lead teachers love the children and treat them as their own. This is truly a community that is creating the most inspired, independent learners possible. They are learning grit and respect for nature in the outdoor classrooms. I love also that it’s mixed ages, as research suggests mixed age classrooms provide better learning opportunities for all ages. The founder Maria has put together something unique and special. We are so lucky to be a part of it! -Sarah Lang

“I’m constantly in awe of what an incredible place this is! The founder, Maria, continues to amaze and inspire my whole family. She has created such a beautiful outdoor “classroom” environment where children of all ages can play and learn by exploring in nature.

After each and every class, my son lights up with excitement as he talks about what he did that day.  I’m so grateful we found Our Village School and highly recommend it!”

Heather Wendt

Our Village School has been our saving grace. As this was our first year homeschooling, we were slightly worried how we would find a community for our kids to fulfill the oh-so-important social piece. Our Village School delivered! Not only did our kids build friendships while in session, they also expanded off of these relationships with additional field trips, book clubs, and hikes. The level of inclusion and community built around Our Village School was enough for us to come back again and again. The academic piece was the cherry on top for us. The kids had incredible hands on experiences, learning opportunities, and came home hungry to dive deeper into topics. We are so grateful for everything that Our Village School has done for our family, and highly recommend to other families.
Brilliant program for young brilliant minds! - Alicia Loomis

Our Village School is a must for any homeschooler! The variety of classes, hands-on environment, and top-notch instruction are a perfect compliment to your homeschool/unschool day. Having Our Village School helps me focus on other topics more individual to my child’s needs, such as language arts and math. I highly recommend Our Village School as part of your homeschooling instruction! 

We LOVED the OVS experience! It’s the homeschool family’s dream program. My child was greeted by name at the car each day then went off to 4 super fun, educational classes. OVS can become more than a school if you participate - there are additional programs, book clubs, and field trips. You can build a little homeschool community here. This is the school that most parents dream of for their young child, and I’m so glad we were able to participate. -Emily Barstad

“Beautiful setting, and a fun and laid back way for homeschool kids to get some great experiences!”

Katie Lind

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Join us outdoors for exploration, learning and a deeper dive into the finer things of life. Looking forward to learning alongside you outside!