Ithaca forest preschool

Scholarship Applications Welcome

We are committed to making our programs available to as many people as possible. Scholarships are generated with our sliding-scale fees. Contributions made over the minimum of the sliding scale are tax-deductible donations to our scholarship fund. Scholarships are limited to the sum of these funds but we may be able to draw on additional resources for families needing more financial assistance. If you need assistance with our program fees we encourage you to be in touch with us.

Ithaca forest Preschool

Scholarship Information

Scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis, pending available funds. We review applications every 2-3 weeks, and notify applicants soon thereafter.

Recipients will be notified by email and given a time-frame within which to accept or decline the amount awarded and complete payment of the balance.

Questions? Please contact the Primitive Pursuits office by email or phone at 607-272-2292.

What to Know About Our Scholarships Before Applying:

Typical scholarship amounts we can provide are outlined below by program type. 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. 

 

Growing Wild Camps – Additional Outside Sources for Scholarships:

If you are registering for a Growing Wild program (either school break or summer camp), there may be additional sources for scholarships. Although we do our best to make sure that everyone can attend our programs, please also consider applying right away to the following supplemental financial assistance programs, to allow them time for processing your application: 

  • Ithaca Youth Bureau ECHO Scholarship – This scholarship is through the Ithaca Youth Bureau and intended for recreation programs (such as camps) for youth in Tompkins County.
  • The Town of Danby offers grants to youth up to age 21 for camps and after school programs. Info & application: youthgrants@danbycc.org or on the Town Hall bulletin board.
  • If you live in another town/county, inquire at your local town hall for possibilities of youth scholarships.

 

Typical Scholarship Awards:
Growing Wild Camp: $50 / week for a maximum of 2 weeks of camp per child
Forest Preschool* – 4 days/wk: $250 per trimester
Forest Preschool* – 2 days/wk: $150 per trimester

*You must submit a separate scholarship application for each trimester.

 If your child is eligible for the Free & Reduced lunch program and you provide a copy of your determination letter, we will consider additional funding requests.

 

How to Apply:

 If you are a new Forest Preschool family, or have questions about our scholarships, please contact our Registrar: primitivepursuitscamp@gmail.com

 If your family has participated in our programs in the past, or if you are registering for Growing Wild camps:

  1. Create an Online Account Portal using a computer and Firefox or Chrome (not Safari or Explorer, not on a tablet or smartphone).
  2. Sign up for your selected program(s) and pay a deposit if applicable.
  3. If you are unable to pay the deposit at this time, select “pay later with cash or check” then email primitivepursuitscamp@gmail.com to make arrangements with the Registrar.
  4. Your spot is NOT held until the Registrar has replied to your email.
  5. Complete a separate scholarship application for EACH participant and EACH program.  
  6. You will receive an email confirmation when we have received your application.

 If you are applying for a scholarship for more than the maximum amount listed above, after you submit your application, please email us at primitivepursuitscamp@gmail.com with information about your circumstances.

 If your child qualifies for the Federal Free & Reduced Lunch Program, please mail or email a copy of your current determination letter.

 

What Parents are Saying...

“Ithaca Forest Preschool prepared our sons to really appreciate nature, to pay attention to details we may not notice nor know anything about, and to love winter; to this day, they sprint outside to play in the cold!”

R.A., Ithaca Forest Preschool parent

What Parents are Saying...

“Ithaca Forest Preschool is a place where your children will learn lots of things you may not know yourself, which they love to come home and share with you.” 

L.C., Ithaca Forest Preschool parent

What Parents are Saying...

“My daughter is now in 4th grade, and my sons are in 2nd Grade and Kindergarten. I can honestly say that I feel they entered Kindergarten completely prepared and that they had something extra to bring to the classroom, an experience beyond what one would expect of a preschooler because they also brought with them unique life skills and stories from their time in the forest.”

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?

A Forest Preschool is just that, a school in the forest! Forest Preschools are the U.S. version of Forest Kindergartens (Waldkindergarten), which have been popular in Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia for decades. There are a growing number in the U.S. and we are on the cutting-edge of nature-based early childhood education! Learn more about forest preschools at naturalstart.org

Will my child be outside the whole time?

We are outside the vast majority of the time; however we do have access to several places to go “in”, including a tipi, a pavilion, and a heated building with bathrooms. Parents learn to dress their children for the weather, and children learn how to stay–or get–warm and dry. Our motto is, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” And remember:

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?

Our family spends lots of time outside. Why should I pay for this kind of experience?

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?

Winter is a wonderful season to explore. We do a lot of snow play and animal tracking, go for walks, build fires, and make warming wild teas. We also do spend some time in our heated building doing indoor tracking activities, crafts, games, songs, and stories. The amount of time we spend indoors depends on the year, but even in the coldest Winters we manage to be outside for part of the morning. The decision of whether to be inside or outside depends on risk management and how best to accomplish our goals of helping children connect to nature, self, and others. The children’s enjoyment of Winter is directly related to how well-dressed and fed they are and how relaxed parents are about the idea of their children spending time out in the cold. Things they learn in Winter include self-care skills, how to dress for Winter play, animal tracking, and beginning to recognize trees in Winter.

What Does My Child Need to Bring?

Children should come dressed appropriately for the weather. We give very detailed information about dressing for the seasons in the Ithaca Forest Preschool Parent Handbook and we also offer a brochure that we created called Dressing Young Children for Outdoor Fun. Additionally, children should come with plenty of water, a healthy lunch and snacks to keep them comfortable for an active day outside.

 

When Can I Drop Off and Pick Up My Child?

Supervision begins at 9 am and ends promptly at 12:00 pm. In case you have an emergency or will be late to pick up please contact our office at 607-272-2292.

 

Is public transportation or carpooling available?

4-H Acres is an on-demand TCAT stop, and there is a bus that can arrive right around 9 am. We do not arrange carpooling, but you are welcome to discuss this at drop off or pickup with other participants/parents who may be interested.

Is toilet-training required?

Yes. Children must be out of diapers/pull-ups and needing only minimal assistance with toileting. Children are encouraged to pee outside and to poop in a child potty that is at our base camp. There is also an indoor bathroom a short walk from our base camp. Sometimes we are too far from a potty and need to use the nature bathroom (pee on the ground, poop in a hole) with assistance.

Is food provided?

No. Please supply yourself/your child with plenty of healthy snacks, lunch, and water each day. These are active children, and they get HUNGRY! Protein, fat, and fiber are especially important for providing long-burning energy. Suggestions for what to pack for lunch and snack are available in the Ithaca Forest Preschool Parent Handbook.

Who are the teachers and how are they trained?

The Ithaca Forest Preschool teachers (we call them mentors) are Primitive Pursuits instructors or in some cases highly trained volunteers. You can read staff bios on our staff page. Although staff may rotate days, we all work together as a team.

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?

We believe so. According to Ithaca City School District kindergarten teachers, the most important skills for entering kindergarten are social-emotional skills. Self-care skills, listening to others in a group setting, managing conflict while playing with others, making transitions smoothly, and self-regulation skills are all prominent in the forest preschool setting. The outdoor environment and our child-led curriculum provide myriad opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, conflict management, and the development of emotional resilience.

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?

We are committed to making our programs available to as many people as possible. To this end, we generate scholarships via our sliding-scale fees. Any contributions made over the minimum of the sliding scale for all our programs are tax-deductible donations to our scholarship fund. Thus, scholarships are limited to the sum of these funds and are awarded based on equitable distribution.

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.

 

About Scholarships

  • 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 primitivepursuitscamp@gmail.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 primitivepursuits@cornell.edu 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 primitivepursuitscamp@gmail.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

FOREST PRESCHOOL TOUR
July 16th 10AM-Noon

Parents and Children are Invited to Join Ithaca Preschool co-founder, Melissa Blake for a Tour of Our Very Special All-Outdoor Preschool Program. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and observe our summer camp program, which is very similar to our school year...

read more

GROWING WILD SUMMER CAMP
@ 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.

read more

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.

read more

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.