SMNS offers forest school playgroups in the South Mountain Reservation.  Join us in the forest!

Forest School Classes
Forest School Summer Camp

SMNS is a forest school in the South Mountain Reservation, Maplewood, NJ. We offer Forest School Enrichment Classes for children ages 2-9 and Forest School Summer Camp for ages 4-7. 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.

Summer Camps

Click below to enroll in Forest School Classes & 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 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 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 School Programs

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.


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

Caregiver & Child 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.

FREE SMNS forest class! Join us October 12th at 9:30 am in the SMR. 

#forestschool #southmountainreservation #optoutside #natureplay #southmountainnatureschool
Popping Jewelweed seed pods
#autumn #jewelweed #forestschool #newjersey #southmountainnatureschool #natureplay
Saturday pm & Thursday am classes added! Registration link in bio. #forestschool #natureplay #cedarsongway #optoutside #fallfoliage #childledlearning #childrenlearnthroughplay #maplewoodnj #southorangenj #westorangenj #morristownnj #madisonnj #southmountainnatureschool #southmountainreservation
Caregiver & Child Waterfall Hike today in the rain. We counted 16 slugs and one frog. It was nature immersion at its best: raindrops on our faces, squishy mud under our boots, and the powerful sound of a rushing waterfall. A super day in the SMR. 💚

#forestschool #natureplay #nosuchthingasbadweather #allweather #cedarsong #southmountainnatureschool #southmountainreservation #somanj #maplewoodnj #southorangenj #westorangenj #millburnnj #caregiverandchildclasses
Fall Forest School Classes are live on the website! Join us for for nature play in the South Mountain Reservation! 

#forestschool #forestplay #natureplay #fallforest #southmountainreservation #southmountainnatureschool #cedarsongway #somanj #maplewoodnj #southorangenj #westorangenj #millburnnj #montclairnj
THIS CREW! ❤️❤️❤️SMNS’s first campers retuned as counselors this summer. They are absolute pros at playing in the forest and were a huge hit with everyone. They were 5 years old when we had our first SMNS forest summer camp! 2nd photo of Teacher Mary Clair with some of her oldest and newest students. Filled with awe and gratitude for our community. ☀️☀️☀️

#summercamp #forestplay #thankful #southmountainnatureschool #cedarsong
Forest School Summer Camp ☀️ 

Forest camp is peaceful and full adventure all at the same time. The children play in the river, create on the art tarp, wander in the fields and much more. 

Thanks to the SMNS community for another great summer in the SMR! 

#forestschool #summertime #summercamp #soulful_moments #peace #thankful #forestplay #optoutside #vitaminnature #thecedarsongway #cedarsong #natureschool #somanj #maplewoodnj #southorangenj #westorangenj #millburnnj #southmountainnatureschool #southmountainreservation #newjersey
Fall classes are live 🌳🌳🌳
Summer camp in full swing! We are having so@much fun hiking, discovering, making art, splashing in the river and so much more 🌳🌳🌳
Fall Caregiver & Child Classes are up on the website! We will be offering Saturday morning classes in 3 week sessions. Choose one session or combine for more weeks. See you Saturdays this fall! 

#forestschool #forestschoolnj #outdoorplay #optoutside #childledplay #childlearningthroughplay #playwork #looseparts #thecedarsongway #cedarsong #southmountainreservation #southmountainnatureschool #maplewoodnj #southorangenj #westorangenj #millburnnj #montclairnj #somanj

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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