Our bright green forest is turning shades of yellow, orange and red! And SMNS students are already changing too. They are learning the rhythms of the forest and our outdoor classroom, internalizing safety and kindness rules. They discover the life that surrounds us — the slugs, spiders, squirrels and the very tall Tulip trees. They get stronger each day by climbing and hiking. They are forming friendships.

Our day begins at the “puddle spot” (which has been more of a slight hole so far but will fill with water, we promise!). We circle up, sing ‘Hello To The Forest’, and then hello to each other. We begin the march up to main camp, singing, ‘Off to Main Camp’. We tend to take our time getting to main camp, observing and investigating along the way. The children have enjoyed collecting sweet gum balls, tulip tree fruits, hickory nuts and acorns and many many leaves. We’ve found about many different shaped leaves along the trail, counting the points and noticing the differences in their shapes, beginning to identify them and trying to find the tree from which they fall – Tulip Poplar, Tupelo, Sweet Gum, Oak, Maple, Birch, Beech, Sassafras.

After we hike to main camp, the children put their packs down on the tarp and get right to exploring and playing. SMNS forest kids play with the many tools for free play we offer them each day. The buckets and ropes become pulley systems where the children coordinate to build the pulley and work together to lift heavy objects up high off the ground. They use the seesaw at main camp to feel the weight of each other, thinking about where friends will stand on either side of the board to get the board to balance. One day a child asked: “How many rocks does a friend weigh?” and proceeded to place rocks on one side of the seesaw while a friend stood on the other. These are fantastic examples of how forest play facilitates deeper inquiry about the natural sciences in an authentic and fun way. There is also plenty of wonderful imaginative play – the shredded wood becomes pasta, the mud becomes cookies & cakes, and the fallen tree is almost always a train. The classes are also beginning to collaborate in their storytelling play.

Right before snack time, we sing the Sit Spots song and each child finds their own spot to listen and look all around, trying to remember what they see and share during the two minutes. Although it’s sometimes hard to hear past the human-made noise, we are able to see the wind in the trees, hear the birds and insects, see the chipmunks and watch the paths of the falling leaves. This two minutes is also a scheduled mask break. The children have been very good about keeping masks on, and they can take a mask break whenever needed, but we always have the mask break during Sit Spots. When the two minutes are up, we put our masks back on and gather together to share what we saw and heard – many times, each child has something different that they noticed.

After Sit Spots, it’s time to wash hands for snack. During snack, we have a read aloud. Here are some of the books we have read so far: Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, a touching story with repetitive text about three owl babies waiting for their mother to return, Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis, Glad Monster Sad Monster, a book about feelings by Ed Emberley, Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, A Seed is Sleeping by Dianna Hutts Aston, some nonfiction books about slugs and daddy longlegs, and also the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

We have also begun to ‘Pass the Story’ during snack. One child begins the story and one of the teachers repeats their part. The next child adds what happens next and the teacher repeats the first and the second part. And so it goes until the final child tells the ending and the teacher repeats the whole story from start to finish. Sometimes the stories are very linear and sometimes they are just plain silly fun.

After snack, we have a potty break and offer a variety of activities on the art tarp or continue to play and explore. Being creative and a love of art are obvious interests this year. So far, we have made a number of treasure necklaces festooned with green oak leaves and yellowing beech and tulip poplar leaves. We’ve also used the leaves to dip in water and stick to stones and leaves for ephemeral art as well as cutting and glueing leaves to paper to make pictures like the ones in Leaf Man. But sometimes after snack we go on adventures. Sometimes the adventure will be to where the river goes under the bridge on Glen Ave, or to the forest just beyond main camp to dig in the dirt of long ago fallen trees, or all the way to the waterfall along the Rahway River. All that climbing builds strength and the variety of forest spots widens their knowledge of what nature has to offer.

As our time for the day comes to a close, we start to gather the tools from our play and the children often like to help clean them. Everyone gets their backpacks and we gather at the fallen tree to reflect on the day, to share what we enjoyed that day. We close with a few of our forest school songs and journey back down towards the parking lot for pickup.

Many thanks to our SMNS families for joining our preschool this year! The teachers are getting to know each of the students and creating trust together. We are building a warm, inclusive community together.

A few of our very important forest school rules:

-Always seen an adult

-If you hear your name called call back “Here I am!”

-If you don’t see an adult, STOP, and STAY PUT.

-Sticks point down; big sticks in big spaces

Coming up this month, we will continue observing the changes that take place fall. Although the weather has still been pretty mild, it will change soon and it will be important for children to wear layers (woolies, fleeces) and also their BOGS BOOTS. The forest usually feels about 5 degrees cooler than it does at the parking lot. Continue doing tick checks after class and applying bug spray before class.

– SMNS Teaching Team

SMNS Songs

Hello to the forest, the forest, the forest

Hello to the forest, we love to explore

Off to Main Camp

Off to Main Camp

Off to Main Camp, here we go

Off to Main Camp

Off to Main Camp

Off to Main Camp, here we go

It’s time for Sit Spots, time for Sit Spots,

One, two, three

It’s time for Sit Spots, time for Sit Spots,

Listen and See

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, swish your bushy tail

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, swish your bushy tail

Wrinkle up your little nose

Walk upon your tippy toes

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, swish your bushy tail

Way up high

Where the birds fly

Way down low

Where the worms go slow

The trees in the forest

And the flowers in the meadow

They’re part of the earth

And it’s part of me, too – Hey!

I am standing like a tree with my roots dug deep
My branches wide and open

Down comes the rain (ch, ch)
Down comes the sun (ha, ha)

Down comes the fruit to my heart that is open

Goodbye to the forest, the forest, the forest

Goodbye to the forest, we love to explore


As the weather cools, remember to wear layers, gloves/ mittens, hats and also your BOGS BOOTS!


  • Join the Google Photos Group to see what’s going on in class each day. We post almost everyday.
  • Also, if you haven’t yet, please join your class’s REMIND app to send and receive important text messages.
  • Remember to pack extra masks in your child’s backpack. They sometimes fall, get dirty, etc.
  • Remember to do tick checks after each class! Take a bath if you can.
  • Upcoming breaks: No school the first week of November.
  • Great work packing healthy and hearty snack boxes!