For Ages 3.5 - 5
Forest Preschool is a nature immersion program where children play and learn outdoors. We support children being active in their own learning process while fostering personal growth and caring for all life on earth.
We use an inquiry–based style of teaching rooted in each child’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder.
Curriculum emerges from child interest and what nature presents us each day. Learning flows from spontaneous play while engaging with one another and nature’s seasonal offerings. Forest Preschool is guided by the idea that children need to spend ample time outdoors. We use the natural environment to encourage imaginative play, cooperation, empathy, healthy risk taking, and cognitive and gross motor skill development. Our program aims to develop a sense of place and a foundation for future earth stewardship and community involvement.
Forest Preschool enrolls students ages 3.5-5 years old. We spend our time outdoors among abundant wild wonders at North Branch Nature Center. Children use all of their senses to explore the local sights, sounds, and sensations of the forests and fields.
Each day a gentle daily rhythm akin to the rhythms in nature is used. An assortment of natural material and props that inspire play and direct connection with nature greet children upon arrival. We call these simple offerings of rocks, log rounds, sticks, pots and pans, etc. “loose parts.” The remainder of our morning is spent beyond the drop-off area, on the Nature Center’s varied land. Loose parts and immersion in nature motivate spontaneous, imaginative play, creativity, exploration, working together, problem solving, and critical thinking.
Lessons emerge daily and generous space is provided for learning to flow from interest, discoveries, and what nature offers throughout the seasons. Because people innately desire taking risks, we support children’s exploration of healthy risk-taking. This may take of the form of climbing a rock, small tree, balancing on a log, etc. In taking healthy risks, children develop the ability to assess and calculate risk for themselves. Through everything we do, we give attention to cooperation and social skills that enhance one’s self-concept and nurture gratitude for all aspects of human and ecological communities.
SCHEDULE OF THE DAY (Sample)
Each day is structured with a familiar pattern to support children feeling secure with an understanding of what to expect next. Special attention is paid in creating gentle, transitions from one portion of the morning to the next.
9-9:30 am : The morning begins with an offering of nature related “loose parts” material to inspire learning and personal growth through spontaneous play and exploration. In addition, this is often a time to explore a nature inspired craft or art project.
9:30 am : Clean up and bathroom break.
9:40 am : Hike to Deer Camp with ample time for observation, discovery, and trail games along the way.
10:00 am : We come together for circle time to share the joy of singing and listening to an oral story, finger play, or puppet show.
10:10 am : Snack time. This is also a time for children to share personal stories and observations.
10:30 am : Children become active again, following their curiosity, and engaging in flow-learning. Children may choose to become “chefs” in the mud kitchen, wave natural material into an outdoor loom, explore, engineer with sticks and rocks, look under logs, make friends with a tree, watch a bird, build a mouse house, create, follow animal tracks, balance on a log, experiment, discover, play, etc.
11:40 am : We come together again for a closing circle to sing and record in a nature journal our discoveries, observations, weather, nature questions, etc.
11:50 am : We journey back to the barn.
12:00 pm : Our day comes to a close with sign-out and pick up.
Scholarships Available, please inquire for details
Branch Nature Center