Preschool Spaces Now Available!

Preschool Spaces Now Available!

We have had an incredible outpouring of requests and in response we have expanded our preschool to offer two groups this Fall.

At the moment we have several spaces available all four days for 4-and 5-year-olds and two spots on Monday and Wednesday for three-year-olds. Interested parents can call our office for more information or fill out our registration form and we will be in touch.

We are available for in-person tours this week and orientation is Sunday, September 13th. This summer we confirmed that our added COVID-related safety precautions didn’t deter our campers from sinking deeply into the experience and having a great time, we expect preschool will be the same and can’t wait to get started.

The Fall semester begins September 16, 2020 

About Ithaca forest preschool

Welcome to Our Wooded World!

With some curiosity, exploration and guidance the seeds of connection can grow, rooting us to our natural surroundings and creating a life-long bond between us and the Earth. The social-emotional skills we teach are among the most important skills your child needs for school and for life. Our curriculum prepares children for kindergarten and beyond!

Program Hours

Monday through Thursday, 9am-12pm.

Ithaca Forest Preschool is a community of learners. The group bonds through shared challenges and experiences, and from getting to know each other for a whole school year or more. At this age, consistency is important. For these reasons, four days for a full year is our standard and most discounted, option. If you are hesitant to enroll for this option, please feel free to contact us to discuss it.

If four days a week for the full school year isn’t right for your family, we offer two day (M/W or Tu/Th) enrollment. Enrollment on a trimester-basis is available if space allows.

Program Location

4-H Acres 418 Lower Creek Road, Ithaca, 14850 

    Enrollment Requirements

    • Children are eligible to enroll if they will be 3 by September 1st and will not reach the age of 6 before January 1st.
    • Children must be out of diapers and needing only minimal assistance with toileting.
    • Because we learn in an outdoor classroom without walls, children must be able to stay with the group and follow instructions most of the time.

    Why Winter

    Why Winter

    Every February when I look around at our forest preschoolers enjoying winter, I marvel at their comfort in the elements. By this time every year, they know how to dress, they know how to keep their mittens on, and their bodies are incredibly acclimated to the cold. February is often the coldest part of winter, but it doesn’t matter. While the rest of the world is wishing for spring, we are just getting into the groove!

    We spent a cold, windy day out there today, with an inch of fresh powder coating the trees and covering up yesterday’s mud and slush. Aside from a few requests to “help me put my mittens back on—my hands are cold”, there were no complaints about the cold. There were: lots of cheerful stomping in cold puddles, curious following of squirrel tracks, triumphant climbing up snowy logs, and patient waiting for a grown-up to scoop water from the raging creek for the purpose of making “potions”.

    There were also children keeping track of their mittens, packing up their own lunchboxes, and taking themselves to the Peace Log when they needed space. Even though we offer plenty of support in winter, eventually they learn that if they don’t want to wait for a grown-up to help they better do it themselves. The self-sufficiency learning curve is steep in winter.

    Take mittens. At first, children may refuse to wear them because they get in the way. They take them off every chance they get. But the environment gives them direct feedback and an introduction to cause and effect: I touch snow with my bare hands; my hands get cold. They learn to take their mittens off only when necessary and to know where they are at all times so they can quickly be put back on. This all involves high-level cognitive processes such as “executive functioning”. What a great learning tool mittens are!

    Why is winter a great time to be a forest preschooler?
    Spending time in the cold is good for your physical health. Learning to take care of yourself in the cold is good for your cognitive and social-emotional development. And learning to be comfortable in winter and appreciate its beauty sets you up for a lifetime of enjoyment and benefits.

    Welcome to Preschool 2019

    Welcome to Preschool 2019

    Following are pictures from the past few weeks at Ithaca Forest Preschool. Check back here for weekly updates on what the preschoolers are up to at their school in the woods!

    “Welcome everybody, we’re so glad to see you! Welcome everybody, we’re so thankful for you,” Ithaca Forest Preschool sang in their Opening Circles during the first week of school. The children put on their backpacks and walked down the path towards Trillium Camp, the ones who have been there before leading the way for the new preschoolers. They waited quietly at the top of the bridge and looked down into their camp. “What do you see? What do you hear?” instructors asked them. After looking and listening to their school in the woods, the children walked down the bridge and hung up their backpacks. Melissa, a co-founder, and instructor of Ithaca Forest Preschool asked for the help of the returning preschoolers to give a tour of camp. They explored the garden, the peace log, the climbing hill, the log circle, the creek and other important parts of this space. Pictured above is Mira, an Ithaca Forest Preschool instructor, playing with children in the creek.

    The creek, one of the children’s favorite places to play in Trillium Camp. With so many rocks to flip over and frogs, salamanders and crawfish to find, they could spend most of the day here, and sometimes do! During the first weeks of school, the preschoolers noticed the water depth in the creek was low. They explored up and downstream in search of the perfect puddles to jump in and the biggest rocks to flip over. Seen above is a child holding a toad he found jumping on the shore of the creek. He rubbed the palms of his hands in the dirt before gently holding the toad so as to not harm its delicate skin. The preschooler then put the toad in the terrarium.

    The aquarium and terrarium are two bins that the children can put animals they find during the day. After the toad above was found, the children worked together to recreate its habitat in the terrarium. They placed dead leaves, rocks and sticks in the terrarium and watched as the toad explored its temporary home. Once an animal is put in either of the bins, the preschoolers are asked to not touch them, and to instead observe how they move, where they like to hide, the colors on their skin, etc. At the end of the day, all of the animals found are let go. Seen above are two children saying goodbye to a frog they put in the aquarium. They caught it, crouched down by the creek and held it in an open hand before it hopped back into the water. “Frog, oh, frog! We love you,” they sang as it swam away.

    A child holding a salamander she found under a rock. She let it go shortly after because “he wants to be with his friends.”

    Two preschoolers using nets in the creek. With the water level so low, the children noticed that they were hard to use. Instead they’d work together to lift large rocks and peak under. “Do you see anything?” they’d ask each other. “Yes! A frog!”

    After arriving to camp, different children each day are chosen to help with the Weather Check. They record what the temperature feels like by choosing a color that represents it (red for hot or blue for cold, for example), check their rain gauge for any water, draw what the sky looks like and measure the creek depth (seen above). The preschoolers started recording the weather during their second week of school. Since then, they’ve noticed that the creek level has been red (the lowest on the measuring stick) everyday.

    A child recording the creek depth on the Weather Check board.

    Fall is a wonderful time to harvest plants from the land. In the mornings, children gathered black-eyed susans and goldenrod and used them to color on paper. They discovered that the center of the black-eyed susans were excellent for drawing and the tiny petals on the goldenrod flowers made a soft yellow color.

    A preschooler harvesting goldenrod.

    While goldenrod can be used the color with, it also makes a tasty tea!

    …and beautiful crowns.

    And great natural dye! Each child got their own piece of silk to put in the dye, which was heated over the fire. At the end of the day, the silk was taken out and the color was revealed- a lovely pale yellow! Melissa made a second batch of dye from the goldenrod the children harvested and decided to not heat it over the fire. The silks turned a bright, golden shade of yellow.

    A preschooler putting clothes pins on his piece of silk to make a pattern.

    Mira and a child tending the fire and stirring the pot of goldenrod dye. The preschoolers learned that fire needs heat, fuel and air to thrive and helped collect firewood. They gathered small, thin sticks (whispies), slightly larger sticks (pencils) and big, thick sticks (markers). The children helped organize the wood into these different sizes and handed instructors pieces to add to the flame. While observing how to start and tend a fire, the preschoolers also learned about how to be safe around fire.

    During an Opening Circle on the third week of school, Melissa introduced pokeberries to the preschoolers. She described what the plant looked like, where they could find it and that, while the berries might look tasty, are not edible. She reminded the group to always ask an instructor before eating a wild plant. Melissa also shared that like goldenrod, pokeberry makes excellent dye.

    Children harvesting pokeberries for dye. After their baskets were filled with berries, the preschoolers carried them back to camp where they pulled the pokeberries of their stems and smashed them to a liquid. Melissa revealed that this dye wasn’t going over the fire like the goldenrod, but instead in a pumpkin! The preschoolers helped hollow out a pumpkin and then poured the pokeberry dye inside. After allowing the dye to start to ferment for a week or two, silk will be added to the pumpkin and left there for a few weeks. Until then the group will anxiously wait to see what color the silks turn into…

    Two children taking a break from harvesting pokeberries to build a fairy house. Sarah, an Ithaca Forest Preschool instructor and photographer, learned that no fairy house is complete without seat for a T-Rex (seen above).

    On Thursdays, Ithaca Forest Preschool invites the children from the Homeschool program to join them at the red oak tree for games. With lots of acorns falling from the red oak, they came up with a fun way to use them. The game seen here was to walk through the hula hoops while balancing acorns on a spoon!

    A preschooler walking through the hula hoops and balancing acorns on a spoon while the rest of the preschoolers and some homeschoolers watch.

    At Ithaca Forest Preschool, we begin and end our days together in circle. Seen here are three children passing a gratitude hoop. During this time, the preschoolers and instructors share something from their day they’re happy they saw or did while the rest of the group listens. Some of the things we have lots of gratitude for at school are frogs, climbing the hill, crawfish, trees, all of the plants, moms and dads, cats and children who like to play and learn outside.

    Thank you for reading! We’re so grateful to share our adventures in the woods with you. Click here to see what our Homeschool program has been up to…

    Preschool Starts on Monday!

    Preschool Starts on Monday!

    We can’t wait to get started! Trillium Camp is quiet in the moments between summer camp and our Preschool season but everything is ready and waiting for our preschoolers to arrive on Monday. If you haven’t already done so, download this year’s Preschool Handbook available in the resources tab. You will also find a quick calendar reference in the same tab.

    Forest Play Day May 24th

    Forest Play Day May 24th

    Forest Play Days are a great way to have a look into whether a forest preschool might be right for your family! Get out into the woods and experience total nature immersion.

    Parents and children birth to age five are invited to join the Ithaca Forest Preschool for a day of stories, stalking, wild tea making & sipping and more as we find our place in the woods at our beloved Trillium Camp at 4-H Acres. Bring water and snacks; there may be opportunities to cook on the fire!

    This event is FREE with advance RSVP.

    Our May 10th Play Day will now be help on May 24th
    Opening Circle 9:00AM – Closing 12:00PM

    Call 607-272-2292 for more information.

    Spring Camp April 15-19

    Spring Camp April 15-19

    Join the Ithaca Forest Preschool for a full week of stories, stalking, wild tea making & sipping and more as we welcome Spring back in the woods of our beloved Trillium Camp at 4-H Acres (418 Lower Creek Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850).

    Nature is the teacher. We are mentors and facilitators, helping young children connect with their bodies, the elements of nature and each other within a safe explorative space in the outdoors.

    We help young children connect with nature and each other, while exploring a safe space in the outdoors. Each day kids discover the wonders in the woods around our camp, sing songs, and share stories. They use natural materials, such as clay, rock-paint, bark, and leaves to create works of woodland art.

    Our forest playground includes trails to explore, forts to build and play inside and puddles (or snow!) in which to stomp.

    Ages 3-5 years old.

    April 15-19, 2019
    Full Week: Monday through Friday ($200-$300 sliding scale)
    3-Days: Wednesday through Friday ($140-$240 sliding scale)
    2 Days: Monday and Tuesday ($100-$200 sliding scale)

    2 or 3 day options are only available in the combination of days as listed above.

    Payments above the base rate of the sliding scale are tax-deductible donations. Thank you for contributing to our scholarship fund!

    Drop Off: 9:00AM – Pick-up: 12:00PM

    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 program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and is run by Primitive Pursuits, a 4-H Program.