Forest Preschool Now Enrolling for Fall!

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Where the wild things grow...

If you believe that children belong outside, and that the tools of imagination are what build a happy childhood and a strong foundation, then welcome  to our wooded world. Nature is the teacher. We are mentors and facilitators, helping young children connect with their bodies, the elements of nature and each other within a safe explorative space at our East Hill Trillium Camp location.

We believe the seeds of a deep connection to nature are in each of us from the time we are born. We’ve applied our knowledge of mentoring and ancestral skills to the concept of the “forest preschool” — a concept that is gaining popularity around the world right now — to create a nature-immersed outdoor preschool with a village feel.

What we do at Ithaca Forest Preschool looks and feels like play most of the time, but our caring and skilled mentors are subtly weaving in peacemaking, community-building, and a deep respect and love for the Earth. Children go home each day from our “invisible school” tired, muddy, and happy. They’ve learned a ton without even realizing it! Spontaneous play, cooperative problem-solving, feeling comfortable in nature, empathy for other living things, and moments of wonder and delight...these are gems we observe every day at Ithaca Forest Preschool. Read about a typical day.

Ithaca Forest Preschool runs at our beloved Trillium Camp located at 4-H Acres, Lower Creek Road in Ithaca.

Age policy: Children are eligible to enroll if they will be three by September 1st and will not reach the age of six before January 1st

2016-17 School Year

East Hill Location - Monday through Thursday

Choose M-Th, M/W, or Tu/Th

4-H Acres, 418 Lower Creek Road, Ithaca

2016-17 Program Dates: Ithaca Forest Preschool follows the ICSD school year calendar as closely as possible. Exact program dates will be posted soon.

  • Fall Trimester: September - December, 2016
  • Winter Trimester: January - March, 2017
  • Spring Trimester: April - June, 2017

Program Times: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM


Enrollment is not complete without the assigned non-refundable deposit. We are unable to hold placement without a deposit.

We operate on a self-determined sliding scale, where everything paid above the minimum is a tax-deductible donation to our scholarship fund. Please consider paying over the minimum to help families to attend who wouldn't otherwise be able.

Limited scholarships and tuition installment plans are available. Please inquire.

Not quite ready to enroll but want to stay in the loop?
Call our office at 272-2292 ext. 195 or Join Our
Forest Preschool Interest List.

Resources & Downloads:

Full Year Tuition Costs
Pricing for enrollment for a full year of the Forest Preschool

    • 2 Days
      Monday / Wednesday

    • from $2,310 to $2,610
    • $62 - $70 per week
      3 equal payments
    • September  - June
    • 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    • 2 Days
      Tuesday / Thursday

    • from $2,310 to $2,610
    • $62 - $70 per week
      3 equal payments
    • September  - June
    • 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    • 4 Days
      Monday - Thursday

    • from $4,235 to $4,735
    • $114 - $128 per week
      3 equal payments
    • September  - June
    • 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Questions?
      per week

    • If you would like help choosing the best option for your child, please get in touch with us for assistance with pricing, scholarships, and special arrangements.
    • Get In Touch

Why We Teach Young Children:

When Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, spoke in Ithaca some years ago, he said he had concluded that unstructured time in nature is most important for kids’ development and nature-connectedness. But, he said, “I just don’t know how you do that in a program.” Well, we do. We provide plenty of time for kids to follow their own curiosity, their own agendas, and preserve for them a sense of timelessness while we as skilled mentors gently steer them where we need them to go, keeping them safe and weaving in learning, social skills development, and community building. Don’t we want our children to develop a naturalist intelligence early on in life? Researchers have studied the amazing abilities American preschoolers have to identify corporate logos. We would rather the patterns our pre-literate children recognize be deer tracks, maple leaves, and robin song.

Our Core Routines:

Giving Thanks—we often start or end each day with a gratitude circle, and pause at other times as well to acknowledge what we value and think outside ourselves.

Hazard Identification—what every beginner needs to know to stay safe outdoors. We also work to develop common sense-- “the least common”.

Sensory Awareness Activities—exercising our senses sharpens them, and for young children it’s a learning experience just to be aware of our senses and articulate what we’re sensing. Attaching sensory information to a learning experience also makes it more memorable. Focusing on senses relaxes and quiets the mind and body.

Games—sometimes organized, often not. Many are the wonderful, spontaneous creations of imaginative kids.

Animal Tracking—while we’re wandering, or anytime animal sign is present, we practice the fundamentals of pattern recognition that will later translate into reading skills. We also like to catch small critters, teaching kids how to do so respectfully and safely.

Animal Forms—thinking and moving like specific animals, we exercise our bodies and imaginations.

Navigating and Mapping—as we wander we practice “songlining”, that is, telling a story using landmarks that will help us find our way back. Other “lostproofing” skills, as well as an introduction to maps and mapping, improve cognitive development and sense of place.

Group Singing and Storytelling—staples of every day. Songs and stories are used in so many ways: to inspire, teach, set the mood, lighten the workload, practice listening skills, bring a group together, and more.

Children Telling Their Stories—For young children, talking about what they just did is a chance to practice language skills as well as reflect on and integrate new experiences.

Primitive Skills—such as shelter building, fire making, gathering, cooking, basket- and tool-making are hands-on activities that involve experiential problem-solving and creativity; they also give kids a boost towards self-sufficiency and feeling “at home” in nature.

Stalking, Hiding, and Camouflage—activities that kids adore, and that provide teachable moments for ecological concepts. Learning the skills of “invisibility” also requires quieting the mind and controlling the body.

Celebration—inspires learning and builds community. There is always something to celebrate! Our celebration brings us full circle, back to gratitude.

How We Teach Young Children:

Nature is the teacher. We are mentors and facilitators, helping kids:

  • Connect with themselves
  • Connect with nature
  • Connect with others
  • Connect with what has come before us

We work with children’s natural curiosity and passions. We gently motivate them to push their own comfort zones or “edges”, reading the ability level of each child to provide appropriate challenges. We provide a safe, community-oriented learning environment where each individual’s gifts are honored and children develop positive relationships with themselves and others. Children love it when adults play, learn, and wonder with them; as mentors we are part of the group, too! We engage their imaginations and help them focus their minds, and incorporate lots of sensory experiences to help make learning stick.

Young children learn mainly through play and mimicry. Most of what we do in a day looks and feels like play. Our instructors are also constantly role modeling: how to dress for the weather, how to be safe around fire, being active learners, caring for the land, expressing gratitude, and more. Every day, we also use core routines that build these skills and habits: loving to learn, being happy, focusing attention, being physically active, being helpful, caretaking the Earth, being loving, and quieting the mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

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