Tour our Forest Preschool! Spring Enrichment Classes Open!

SMNS Offers:

Forest Preschool
Forest Kindergarten
Forest School Classes
Forest School Summer Camp

SMNS is a forest school in the South Mountain Reservation, Maplewood, NJ. We offer a Forest Preschool, a Forest Kindergarten, and Forest School Enrichment Classes. We follow THE CEDARSONG WAY! SMNS’s Nature Immersion curriculum is “free time in nature, resulting in an intimate, deep and personal connection to the natural world.” Our programs promote social and emotional development, instill confidence and foster independence.

Connecting Kids with Nature

Give us a call to schedule a tour

Preschool and Summer Camps

Click below to enroll in Forest Preschool and Summer Camps

The Cedarsong Way

The Cedarsong way is a nature immersion philosophy that fosters kindness for oneself, the community and the natural world.

preschool girl walking in the woods

Forest Preschool

preschool girl playing in the woods

Forest School Summer Camp

Forest School Classes for ages 2-9

Caregiver & Child Classes and After School Classes each season Fall, Winter & Spring.

CLICK BELOW to enroll in Enrichment Forest School Classes. These classes meet weekly and run 90 minutes.

Drop -Off After School Classes

Weekday Caregiver Classes

Weekend Caregiver Classes

Our Teachers


Mary Clair Sonneman

Founder and Director

Mary Clair founded South Mountain Nature School in the fall of 2016 after earning her Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten Certification at Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island, WA. Mary Clair holds a Secondary Teaching Degree from San Francisco State University and BA in English from Boston University. She has 15 years teaching experience.


Anna Maxwell

Co-Director, Forest Preschool & Forest Kindergarten

Anna Maxwell holds a dual Masters of Teaching in Early Childhood Education and Childhood Education.  She has over 10 years of experience teaching kindergarten in the private and public school settings.


Anneliese Scherfen

Lead Teacher

Anneliese has been a preschool teacher for over 10 years. She earned her Early Childhood Masters in Education from Hunter College in NYC. She also holds a BFA in Art History from Ohio University.

Elisa Nicoletti

Assistant Director & Preschool Teacher

Elisa Nicoletti developed a love of the South Mountain Reservation over the past few years while hiking and exploring it with her two young daughters. She is an advocate of free play and extensive time outdoors for children of all ages. Elisa holds a Masters’s degree in Criminal Justice and had a lengthy career in criminal justice reform prior to joining SMNS.


Sam Fagundez

Preschool & After School Teacher

Sam is a graduate of Rutgers University’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and holds a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and Minors in Biology and Sustainability. Her passion is helping kids discover, learn, play, and explore our natural world. Sam’s favorite things to do in the forest are identifying trees and finding frogs.


Kim Charles

Preschool & After School Teacher

Teacher Kim has been a Forest School Teacher with South Mountain Nature School since 2021. She received an MSEd in Early Childhood Education for Special and General Education as well as an Advanced Certificate in Autism and Severe Disabilities from Bank Street College. She worked as a special education preschool teacher in NYC and as a developmental interventionist for NJ’s Early Intervention Program. Teacher Kim loves to hike in South Mountain Reservation and lives in South Orange with her family.

Former SMNS student on spring break 🍀
Bird watching is one of our favorites! SPRING REGISTRATION will open Tuesday 2/21! Link in bio.
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Spring registration for Caregiver & Child Classes and After School classes opens Tuesday, Feb. 21! 

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Forest Preschool Enrollment for 2023-2024 is now open and SMNS is accepting new applications. Join us for a tour and see why forest and nature schools are so incredibly popular. 

Today our forest preschoolers enjoyed the sunshine and warmth. They made chocolate broccoli muffins to celebrate a birthday, fetched water from the river, and climbed to new heights. 

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Feels like spring today in NJ ✨ and we are taking water trips, making mud  and building nests. 

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FREEBIE Caregiver & Child Class for new families. February 23 at 9:30 am. Registration link in bio. 

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Cozy reading time 📚

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💚 Teacher Sam 💚

What Our Parents Are Saying

It’s been a little over one month into Forest school and we’ve already seen many good changes in my son which we credit with SMNS.

The most noticeable thing is his footwork, balance, and endurance have changed so much!! It’s amazing! Wyatt has always been really mobile and his first steps were in the form of running. He basically runs everywhere but also did an equal share of tripping and falling down.

Now he still runs but he isn’t falling plus he’s climbing a lot more. While we’ve always gone hiking and I am aware of the importance of uneven, natural surfaces for development, I think the sustained time outside, with a group of his peers, and being challenged through the activities offered by Teachers Annalise and Isy have led to this positive change.

Melissa D., Maplewood, NJ

I wanted to write and let you know how very pleased I am with my daughter’s class! This is the very BEST preschool experience we have had in our family. (I really liked my other children’s schools, but this is so much better!) The teachers are patient, kind, and thoughtful. The documentation is priceless. The whole family looks through the photos and captions to review the events of the day.

She comes home from the forest energized and excited. She plays outside with focus. She is so happy!

Julie P, Maplewood, NJ

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