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Christie McKelvie


Christie (Bird) McKelvie graduated from NL in 1999.  She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree (with honors) from Penn State University in 2003, and a Master of Science in Education degree from Lebanon Valley College in 2009.  McKelvie’s parents, who both taught in Northern Lebanon, instilled in her the value of life-long learning.  After graduating from Penn State, she taught 3rd and 4th grade at Fredericksburg Elementary, where her classroom was always a place of curiosity, energy, and positive relationships.  As a classroom teacher, McKelvie excelled at creating authentic learning opportunities for students, and she became proficient at writing grants and networking to build student and staff capacity for science and environmental education.  She also, with the help of her husband, led an elementary Envirothon team to be county champions.

After transitioning to staying home full-time with her 4 children, McKelvie began to realize the power of individualized learning opportunities unstructured experiences in nature.  Growing out of her time working at an outdoor camp in her college years along with her husband Nate’s passion for and knowledge of nature, McKelvie began working to create a nature-based early childhood education center that would foster in children strong social, emotional, and problem-solving skills along with positive experiences in nature.  McKelvie’s desire is to see children rooted in place-based learning and free to grow in truly individualized ways.  In 2020, she and her husband saw this dream come to fruition as Rooted & Free Nature School ( began offering Wild Wednesdays! sessions at Camp Kirchenwald for children preK-2nd grade and 3rd-6th grade. In Fall 2021, Rooted & Free will continue to offer these monthly sessions and are excited to launch their nature preschool, as well.

McKelvie currently resides in Palmyra, PA with her husband Nate, whom she met at PSU, and their four “incredible” children: Nathan, Ezra, Lincoln, and Elenor.  They are known to have some unusual pets, including chickens, turtles, snakes, and fish.  In her spare time, McKelvie loves spending time in nature with her family and friends.  You can often find her hiking, biking, camping, or sitting in a hammock reading a good book. McKelvie can recall many things that she appreciates about her time at NL, both as a student and an educator. “Northern Lebanon will always hold such a special place in my heart. I spent my first 13 years of formal education as a student here as well as 6 years as a teacher and could write a book about all that I learned from my time at NL. However, one thing that stands out to me is how the teachers truly cared about each of us as people - not just students that were receiving a grade. I always felt like school was an extension of family and have so many teachers that were mentors that I still remain in touch with to this day. They spurred me on to be a better person, and for that I am forever grateful!”  The following is McKelvie’s advice for current NL students:  Take advantage of the many experiences and opportunities NL offers and reach out to teachers to be your mentor. Try something new - a new club, sport, musical instrument. It’s easy to think that if we don’t start something when we are really young, it’s too late to start. That’s not true! Give it a try - it may turn out to be something you love. Speaking of that, pursue your passions and dreams in life! I promise you, you will be so glad you did!



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