Early Childhood Forest Program
In our Early Childhood Forest Program, children learn through play and exploring our beautiful 35 acres of natural space. We offer Parent/Caregiver & Child Classes as well as TK/Kindergarten.
Our Forest TK/Kindergarten is an outdoor program for 3.5-6 year olds. Our inquiry-based learning nurtures a children’s sense of wonder and creativity. Through observing a child’s play, teachers craft meaningful play invitations, share stories or pose questions, which support the child’s learning process.
Through joyful engagement in our Forest Program, children develop lifelong capacities for creative thinking, self-confidence and an awareness of others and their natural environment.
Our Two-Year Forest Kindergarten Model
Children typically attend our Forest Kindergarten for two years. The two-year Kindergarten program is akin to a plant: during the first year of Kindergarten, the seeds are planted and nourished; in the second year, the plant fully blooms and flourishes.
This type of learning environment has several benefits including:
The relationship between the child, teacher, and the child’s parents deepens during two years of working together, enabling better support for each child’s unique developmental path.
Children have unhurried time to develop the skills they will need to be successful in school and in later life. Older Kindergarten children can engage in activities for longer and at a more complex level. At this stage, they are more inwardly motivated to initiate rather than participate out of imitation.
The second year of Kindergarten provides opportunities for the older children to develop leadership capacities and a sense of responsibility by setting the example for younger peers in a familiar setting.
Younger children are often inspired by the older children’s expertise and the older children have the opportunity to encourage and support younger peers, thus creating a more complex social environment.
In the Wild Oak Forest TK/Kindergarten, nature is our “classroom.” While each day brings new adventures, the daily, weekly and yearly rhythms of our program provide a welcome security for the young child. The daily rhythm and weekly patterns of meaningful work such as washing, baking bread and preparing soup provide a comforting sense of time and structure. The predictability of knowing “what comes next” allows children to be fully present in the moment.
We meet three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday, from 9:00am - 1:00pm (you may chose to enroll in 1, 2, or 3 days). Each day your child will come prepared with a backpack, with a spare change of clothing appropriate for that day’s weather, and a water bottle. Warm snacks will be provided daily, but each child will bring a peanut-free lunch.
9:00am Drop off and morning exploration
9:20am Circle Time and Morning Greeting
9:40am “Potty train” and prepare for hiking adventure.
10:00am Hike to Giant Gorge, Newt Creek or Mossy Meadow (Many discoveries are found along the way.)
10:25am Morning Snack (The children learn the day of the week by the snacks of the day, Apple and Tea day, Bread Day, etc.)
10:50am Nature play (During this time of unstructured free play, the teachers will offer play invitations such as nature craft, woodworking or hand work.)
11:40am Story time (Teachers will share a nature story, often reflecting the play and interests of the children.)
11:50am Hike back to camp
12:15pm Lunchtime in the shade of our trees
12:45pm Nature craft or nature exploration
1:00pm Pick up for children who are not attending our Afternoon Classes
Monday: Parent/Caregiver & Child Class - Nature Day, Mousy bite day (apples, popcorn and raisins)
Tuesday: Tea and Apple day (served with cashews)
Wednesday: Bread and Beeswax Day
Thursday: Soup Day (prepared and cooked at camp
*This rhythm is not fixed, and reflects the natural rhythm of the children. It may also change due to unforeseen weather changes (thunder, lightning, etc.).
Parent/Caregiver & Child Class
Our Parent/Caregiver & Child class offers the opportunity for your child and a beloved adult companion to explore together the natural world of which they are a part. In community with our Forest Kindergarten teachers and their Forest Kindergarten children, this class allows our younger friends to explore outside with the emotional and physical security of their beloved caregivers present. Over the weeks of the session they will become familiar with the rhythm of our morning - Circle with songs/rhymes and movement, use of the toilet/diaper change (if needed), a short hike, communal snack, unstructured play in Nature, followed by our closing.
As your child feels more confident to play further from their adult companion, it allows for their adult to have intentional time to observe how their child plays. This space can also lend itself to discussions with the other adults in the class on topics such as the importance of unstructured free play and how to support it, skills practiced and values learned, and the many possible roles of the caregiver and play. Our Parent/Caregiver & Child class also lends itself to being a lovely introduction and transitional experience to our 2-year Forest Kindergarten program. We hope you will join us!
Each series is six weeks long and costs $150 each. Classes meet Mondays from 9am to 11am at the Briones Springhill Trail Head in Lafayette, Our next session begins November 5. Click here to register.
EARLY CHILDHOOD FOREST PROGRAM