Philosophy and Teaching Style
South Mountain Nature School’s Forest Preschool Program nurtures children’s innate curiosity about the natural world. We believe that children learn best though play and that the natural world is the best playground, sparking joy, curiosity, cooperation and wonder. When children spend time outdoors they quickly engage their imaginations, move their bodies, ask questions, and make insightful observations. Research continues to support that when kids connect with nature they are happier and healthier.
All of SMNS’s classes follow The Cedarsong Way, a forest kindergarten philosophy created by the esteemed Erin Kenny of Cedarsong Nature School near Seattle, WA. Cedarsong was the first forest kindergarten in the US. The Cedarsong Way honors the whole child and empowers them to be respectful of themselves and others while cultivating a deep love for the natural world.
Several key features distinguish our early childhood education program:
- Total commitment to all outdoor, all the time nature immersion. Nature Immersion is defined by Erin Kenny at Cedarsong Nature School as “unstructured free time in nature resulting in an intimate, deep and personal connection to the natural world
- Interest-led, Child-driven Flow Learning
- Reggio Emilia-inspired Emergent Curriculum
- Place-based Education
- Inquiry-based Teaching Style
- Authentic Play
- Small Class Size, 1:4 Teacher to Child Ratio
- Exposure to Moderate Risk
Classes meet in all weather in the South Mountain Reservation in Essex County, NJ. We keep a small student to teacher ratio of 4:1 or less to ensure all children are safe and supported. In the case of extreme weather such as high winds and lightning we will take trips to the Public Library.