Construction has begun in Town & Country, Mo., on a new $2.3 million Raintree School, the St. Louis area’s only Reggio Emilia-inspired Forest school. Stltoday.com says the kindergarten and preschool facility will encompass 6,800 square feet of learning space with four child-centered classrooms, a large Atelier (art studio) for hands-on science and art exploration, a teaching kitchen, dining room, an outdoor piazza, a nature-based playground with a large garden, and acres of woodland for exploration and learning. Scheduled to open in late 2013, the new school will serve about 70 children from age 2 to 6. Raintree will be the only Forest School in Missouri. Developed in Northern Italy shortly after World War II by educator Loris Malaguzzi, the Reggio Emilia approach is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment. Forest Schools are a type of outdoor education that uses woods and forests as a means to build independence and self-esteem in young children. The school’s new facility will sit on 11 acres of woodland and prairie with 91 percent of the property dedicated to green space.