2023-2024 Forest Preschool
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Preschool Enrollment

2023-2024 Forest Preschool Program for Ages 3-6

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 make use of our cabin.

Class Details

The yearlong class meets Monday through Friday with the option to join in the mornings from 9 am – 12 pm or afternoons from 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm. Our program is 100% committed to being outside in all weather. Rain drops, flurries, sunshine and fog all make for great fun.

2023 – 2024 School Year Tuition — Morning & Afternoon cohorts

  • Two days per week: $4725 morning, $3900 afternoon
  • Three days per week: $7088 morning, $ 5900 afternoon
  • Five days per week: $11800

Enrollment Application

After you submit your enrollment application, you will be contacted to arrange a visit to the school at The Oval, South Mountain Reservation. If accepted into the program, then you will be asked to fill out and sign an Enrollment Contract. At that time, a non-refundable registration fee is required.

Allyship Grant

SMNS is an inclusive, diverse and accepting organization dedicated to ensuring opportunity and equality for as many families as possible. In service to that mission, we offer financial assistance to students of underrepresented backgrounds through our South Mountain Nature School Preschool Allyship Grant. See our application page for the application and details.

Preschool Enrollment