Forest Preschool
For Ages 3.5 - 5

Forest Preschool is a nature immersion, play-based program that supports 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 and engageming 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 world of nature to encourage imaginative play, creativity, 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 using all of our senses to explore the local sights, sounds, and sensations of the forests and fields. Each day and throughout the seasons we use a gentle daily rhythm akin to the rhythms in nature. Our rhythm includes spontaneous play, creating, movement, circle time, storytelling, exploration, discovery, observation, song, and reflection. An assortment of natural material and props that inspire play and direct connection with nature greet children upon arrival.  We call these offerings of rocks, log rounds, sticks, pots and pans, etc.  “loose parts.” Loose parts encourage spontaneous, imaginative play, creativity, exploration, cooperation, 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.


Each day is structured with a familiar pattern to support children as they engage with natural world wonders and one another in the forest and fields. 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.

10:20 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.

How to Register

Scholarships Available, please inquire for details
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, starting September 2, 2014, 9 am to 12 pm., for 12 weeks.
Students can attend one or two days
Fee: $465 for one day, $880 for two days, for 12 weeks.
A $200 deposit is needed to secure your spot in the program. You may include the deposit with registration form and send it all to NBNC.

Forest Pre-K is a “drop-off” program for students between the ages of 3.5 and 5 years old. Forest Preschool is an outdoor, exploratory, play-based program that empowers children to be active in their own learning process, while providing them the means to connect to one another and the natural world in a caring way. For more information, download the Forest Preschool Handbook.

The Forest Preschool is a “drop off” program that is exclusively outdoors except in the case of extremely cold temperatures or thunder and lightning. Please contact Emily Sloan at NBNC for more information or click here to download a registration form.


North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6206

Open Monday - Friday, 9am to 4pm
Trails open every day
Directions to the Nature Center
Contact Us