Now Enrolling for the 2022-23 School Year!

Now Enrolling for the 2022-23 School Year!

Enrollment is now open for the coming school year. To start your registration use the “start registration” button on the home page to fill out our enrollment form. Once we receive your form data we can be in touch with you to make sure this is a great fit for your family.

Please note that completion of this form does not guarantee a space in the program. Filling out the form indicates your interest in this program, enrollments will be processed separately through our Registrar!

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Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings. Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Weeks 4-6 with the Nuthatches!

Weeks 4-6 with the Nuthatches!

Hello Nuthatch Families! Thanks for your patience, and we are excited to fill in the stories you’ve heard from us and your children in the past few weeks with some photos! In weeks 4-6 of preschool, we noticed, harvested, and appreciated the gifts of fall. (One of these gifts was the rain that we’d been missing in the first few weeks!) We also got into our theme of ancestors, an IFP October tradition…

Friends collecting firewood.

Cooking soup over a play fire and prying out a rock with a digging stick!

An inspiration of Elisabeth’s during free play which several Nuthatches got involved in.

On our way to gather goldenrod in the meadow across the creek…

We had no idea how much, if any, we would find… so we were grateful there was enough that we could harvest what we needed and still leave plenty.

Here’s what we did with that goldenrod!

Once the yellow flowers had given us the last pigment of their season, we brought in pokeberries to decorate our hand towels.
 

…and a couple of songs:

I Thank the Earth

I thank the earth for feeding my body

I thank the sun for warming my bones

I thank the trees for the air that I breathe

And I thank the water for nourishing my soul.

 

Ancestor Song

I hear the voices of my ancestors calling

They say wake up, wake up

Listen, listen now:

May the rivers all run free

May the mountains go unbroken

May the air be pure, may the trees stand tall

May the earth be shared by all.

 

Wishing you all light and joy as the days shorten,

Mira & Elisabeth

A Glimpse Into Forest Preschool

A Glimpse Into Forest Preschool

This is a reprint of a post from the Primitive Pursuits blog by Kirsten Wise from 2015

In September I had a chance to visit the Ithaca Forest Preschool just as the school year began.

Spiders. Fires. And monsters making ice cream.

Stranger things have happened at the Ithaca Forest Preschool. In a classroom where the walls are made of hills and the forest canopy provides windows to endless possibilities, learning and imagination run rampant.

In January 2014, Primitive Pursuits founder Tim Drake and team member Melissa Blake decided to start a preschool-aged nature education program. Blake says she didn’t want to wait until her son was six to get involved in the wilderness experiences that Primitive Pursuits was providing. By that March, a pilot program was up and running one day a week. Today the program runs five days a week and in two locations.

This fall, on the first program day, some kids already knew the lay of the land, having returned from a previous season. Others were just getting acclimated to the space, taking advice from the returners on how to create paint from sedimentary rocks and charcoal. When the time came to head down the trail, some chose a stony path along a creek, while others climbed over a log that spanned the leafy forest floor. A few asked mentors Melissa and Sean for help, or just saved the challenge for another day.

Later, they headed back to the creek to collect water for an activity. But once a toad was spotted, the task was all but forgotten to explore the differences between frogs and toads.

“There’s so much required of them,” Blake says as the children carry steel pots and rocks. Not only is it their first time without their parents, but for some, there is also the adjustment of being outside for hours at a time. However, as Blake has seen over the years, no matter the different exposure they have coming in, it’s evident that “young children naturally really want to be outside.”

In another area, a small tree had fallen across a tree trunk lying on the ground. Because of this, it could bounce. A boy belly-scooted along the tree and invited an instructor to come, too. They were going to “the ice cream store.” It was like Max’s imaginings in Where the Wild Things Are, but in reverse. Instead of the posts of Max’s bed turning into trees, the trunk began to morph into something industrial. Note to adult: regardless of where a child is, there is always another world to be found.

These preschoolers may not understand how unique their forest classroom is—however, it is evident that their skill-sets and level of comfort with nature surpasses many who are much older. Blake recalls a snowy spring break when there was a week-long program for teenagers near by. At first, many of the young adults seemed timid with their surroundings and uncomfortable in their lack of proper clothing. The youngsters, however, were embracing the cold and playing in the deep snow, bundled well in the lessons of winter preparedness.

At one point on Friday, one boy lingered back from the group and picked up a branch, thin and two feet long with a dangling limb.

“It’s a monster!” He whispered.

“Oh, no!” I gasped.

Quickly, he had to tell me about one of his favorite animals.

“I like bats,” he said, “because they eat frogs and mosquitos!”

I asked if he had ever seen a bat. He said no, but he knew they stayed together, “Like 1300 of them! In a big circle!”

I considered what a wild thought this was, for both of us.

A steep hill with a giant tree trunk providing a railing seemed to be the largest attraction of this forest classroom. A group of four kids began to climb, with a mentor following them. Within minutes, another boy notices them and races toward them, until he abruptly stops at the foot of the hill. He needs to make sure an instructor is there to watch him. Once he gets the okay, he speeds up the hill until he reaches the tricky part—where the mound becomes steep and the tree trunk is out of reach. There, he joins the other kids whose steps are becoming more deliberate, more thought-out. It takes each child a good three minutes to reach the top, listening to suggestions from their mentors and not getting upset when they fall. Some announce their delight before sliding back down.

But most are quiet, only giving you a smile that asks you to believe what they just did, because they barely believe it themselves.

At the end of each day, the kids have lots to tell. Genna Knight says when she picked up her son Rowan from class, “he was smiling and chatty and told stories the whole way home about his morning. He called both sets of grandparents and told them all about it.” When asked how many days he wanted to attend Forest Preschool, he replied, “Eight days a week!”

Winter Dressing Dos and Don’ts

Winter Dressing Dos and Don’ts

The arrival of winter weather has some people wondering… 

 

“What can I do to make sure my child can be comfortable playing outside in the wind, cold, snow, and rain?”

Primitive Pursuits has been taking youth out in winter for over a decade, and at Ithaca Forest Preschool, we take preschoolers outside 5 mornings a week, year-round. So we’ve learned a few things about dressing kids for winter, and came up with these top 5 Dos and Don’ts:

DO

  • dress in layers
  • focus on staying dry, both from the outside (snow and rain) and the inside (sweat, pee).
  • base the amount of insulation on temperature AND the amount of physical activity you expect.
  • pay special attention to hands and feet: wear warm, waterproof mittens, thick socks, warm boots. Make sure boots start out dry inside!
  • wear a comfortable, warm hat with good coverage. Soft fleece tends to get better compliance than rough wool. Consider scarf/neck gaiter.

DON’T

  • wear cotton—it absorbs moisture and conducts heat away from the body!
  • wear mittens or boots that allow snow in.
  • wear fleece or flannel on the outside where they can be “snow velcro”.
  • wear plastic or rubber boots that have no insulation—they aren’t warm enough and they trap moisture inside.
  • wear cotton socks!

Stay warm and we will see you in the woods!

Office Location:
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
607-272-2292 | email Us

Preschool Location:
4-H Acres, 418 Lower Creek Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850


Ithaca Forest Preschool is a nature immersion program for children ages 3-5. Our program is run in cooperation with Primitive Pursuits, a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension.