Ithaca forest preschool
Our caring and skilled mentors help guide our students towards creating a life-long love of learning and the Earth through encouraging curiosity, asking questions and exploration.
Jed has been an Environmental Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County for over 16 years and co-founded the Primitive Pursuits program along with Tim Drake and Dave Hall. Jed is also an adjunct lecturer at Ithaca College in the Environmental Studies & Sciences Dept. where he has helped develop and teach an Environmental Sentinels course for the last nine years.
Jed lives in Danby NY, with his wife and two youngest children. He and his wife own and operate a small u-pick berry farm, Rogue Creek Farm, where he also raises honeybees and nut trees, among other homesteading activities.
Program Coordinator and Lead instructor
Lyla has worked in many different jobs, as a freelance photographer, a nanny, a server in National Parks, and most recently as an educator at the Sciencenter. She has also studied herbalism and botany. She loves working in her garden and making tinctures and salves with other people. Getting to combine her curiosity and love of nature along with her love of children is one of her greatest joys.
Lyla lives in Brooktondale with her husband, daughter, and parents. Together they have a big vegetable, flower and medicinal herb garden. They also have a flock of chickens that they share their land with.
Lyla loves being part of the Forest Preschool team and looks forward to discovering and explore with the children for years to come.
In addition to her love for the woods, Liz is passionate about public health and building healthy communities. She recently graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health and Nutrition and just completed a service year with AmeriCorps. Liz is also currently working towards becoming certified as a Postpartum Doula.
Today, you can find Liz in the woods singing songs, creating fairy houses, exploring creeks, working with fiber art, and making rock paint. She hopes to bring these passions with her to Forest Preschool this year and learn, play, and laugh alongside some sweet preschoolers!
Nora has always felt the most “Nora” while spending time outside. Exploring the forest and creek near her house, camping with her girl scout troop and family, swimming in the summer, and biking to the lake were important parts of her life growing up. Nora also has a passion for education, which she pursued through studying music education at Ithaca College, teaching music lessons, working in childcare, and teaching kickboxing. She feels very blessed to be able to teach outside with kids, and see the vast range of naturalist skills and knowledge the others in Primitive Pursuits bring.
Melissa completed a graduate program in Environmental Education at the Teton Science Schools in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a two-year mentorship with master tracker Jon Young. In 2006 she founded a program called Growing Wild Nature Mentoring in the Catskills.
Although Melissa has moved on to a new role, she continues to be a frequent collaborator and consultant with Ithaca Forest Preschool.
What Parents are Saying...
R.A., Ithaca Forest Preschool parent
What Parents are Saying...
L.C., Ithaca Forest Preschool parent
What Parents are Saying...
G. K., Ithaca Forest Preschool parent
If you believe that children belong outside, and that the tools of imagination are what build a happy childhood and a strong foundation, then welcome to our wooded world.
Ithaca forest Preschool
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Forest Preschool?
Will my child be outside the whole time?
Whether the weather is cold
Or whether the weather is hot
Whether the weather is fair
Or whether the weather is not
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.
Why should I consider an outdoor school?
It’s great that so many children in our area get time outside with their families. Attending a forest preschool has different benefits. For one thing, learning in nature alongside peers and non-parent adults teaches children that this is a normal way to spend time, not limited to their family. Secondly, the social aspect of what we do is so important. The outdoors is an amazing classroom for learning social and emotional skills, where group imaginative play abounds and teamwork is necessary if the group is to thrive. At Ithaca Forest Preschool in particular, we place a lot of emphasis on community and the group. Also, the staff to student ratio is high in order for us to manage risks appropriately; this means there are lots of opportunities for us to coach children in these important social-emotional skills. for more information please refer to the Ithaca Forest Preschool Parent Handbook.
What about winter?
What Does My Child Need to Bring?
When Can I Drop Off and Pick Up My Child?
Is public transportation or carpooling available?
Is toilet-training required?
Is food provided?
Who are the teachers and how are they trained?
We require a combination of experience and education in some or all of the following: outdoor education, early childhood education or development, primitive skills, naturalist skills, and “coyote mentoring” as described in the book Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature. All of our instructors and volunteers must go through background checks but we do not require teaching certification.
Will this prepare my child for kindergarten?
Cognitive scientists say imaginative play with few or no props builds a skill set called “executive function”, which is a better predictor of school success than IQ (from an NPR report titled “Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills”, February 20, 2008). It is well-known that physical activity is essential for healthy brain and nervous system development (see, for example, Teaching With the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen). Recognizing patterns in nature may translate to recognizing letters and words, and being able to develop a mental picture while listening to stories told orally is an important pre-reading skill. The importance of nature play for academic success is now so clear that author Richard Louv wrote a column in September 2014 titled, “Want Your Kids to Get Into Harvard? Tell ‘Em to Go Outside!”
At Ithaca Forest Preschool, your child will get practice with these specific kindergarten-level skills: listening to and following multi-step directions; taking turns; identifying colors; counting; simple math; working with backpacks, coats, zippers, and boots; tying an overhand (shoelace) knot, feeding him or herself lunch in a distracting environment, and managing her or his stuff.
What Scholarships are Available?
Recipients will be notified by email and given a timeframe within which to accept or decline the amount awarded and complete payment of the balance.
- Trimester: $100 in scholarship for the first day/week, then $50 for each additional day/week (e.g., If you are registered for Mondays & Wednesdays, the maximum amount in scholarship would be $150)
- Larger scholarships are considered under extenuating circumstances, and on a case by case basis.
- Scholarship applications must be submitted a minimum of 30 days before the program start date to ensure consideration. You may apply closer to the start date, but we cannot guarantee a response before the program begins.
How to Apply:
- Create an Online Account Portal using a computer and Firefox or Chrome (not Safari or Explorer, not on a tablet or smartphone)
- Sign up for your selected program(s) and pay a deposit (EXCEPT summer camps after May 1, email email@example.com to arrange deposit payment thru Registrar).
- If you are applying for a scholarship for more than the maximum amount, please email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org with information about your circumstances.
What is your cancellation and refund policy?
- In order for any program change or refund request to be considered, it must be made in writing through the registrar, even if you have discussed this with another staff person, such as a field educator.
- The effective date of all refund requests is the DATE OF THE EMAIL notifying the Registrar of your request.
- Changes and refunds are NOT guaranteed and only the Registrar can process these changes.
- All deposits (even “non-refundable deposits”) will be returned if you are unable to participate in a program for lack of a scholarship request being approved.
Please email email@example.com with your full name, phone number, the participant’s name, the full program name(s), and the program start date(s).
More on our policies page.
Ithaca forest Preschool
The Latest News from Our Blog
OPEN HOUSE & TOUR March 19th 10AM-Noon
Parents and Children are Invited to Join Ithaca Preschool instructor, Lyla White for an Open House and tour of Our Very Special All-Outdoor Preschool Program. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and tour our outdoor preschool grounds. If bringing a child,...
GROWING WILD SUMMER CAMP
@ 4-H Acres
@ 4-H Acres
We will have 8 Weeks of half-day Growing Wild Summer Camp at 4-H Acres for ages 3-5. Each day the kids get to romp in the woods and find natural materials, such as clay, rock-paint, bark, and leaves to create works of woodland art.
Cleaning up Trillium Camp and telling stories
We started the Winter session by cleaning up Trillium camp and taking advantage of the mild weather to get ready for the rest of the season.The preschoolers worked very hard removing ashes, rebuilding the rock ring, and spreading out new sand around the fire pit.We...
One Day at Forest Preschool
On November 30th we had a friend, Barbara, join us and she documented our day with photos. Here is what that day looked like: After opening circle we headed down to Trillium Camp, hung up our bags and immediately went over to the sandbox. We were looking to see if any...