It’s more than simply bringing children back outside and away from screens. Forest school is a time-tested, multicultural approach to teaching and learning in nature with nature and for nature. Led by children’s innate curiosity, shaped by the seasons, and nurtured by trained teachers, forest school promotes whole-child development through experiential learning. Nature-based education is essential to a healthy childhood and a hopeful future.
As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Children embrace the elements and we view the weather as a privilege of learning outdoors. Research tells us that skills like “grit” prepare children for success, and inclement weather presents opportunities for our students to build resilience. Simply put, some of our best days are in the rain.
At Tiny Green Trees, we believe children deserve environments in which they are free to learn and develop at their own pace. We will transition a child from one classroom to another based on age and availability, or we may opt to delay that transition based on what is best for the child.
In our Infant program, we center each day with love, safety, and emotional connection. We provide a nurturing family-like environment designed to help infants thrive. Children in our infant care program have opportunities to gaze at the clouds, feel the breeze on their skin, touch snowflakes, and listen to birdsong. We understand that a love of nature can begin in infancy and that trees and leaves make the best mobiles.
Research has shown that infants and toddlers who spend time in nature develop stronger immune systems, increase their neurological connections, and sleep better at night.
In our Toddler program, we use experiences in nature to support whole child development. This includes large and fine motor development; speech and language; and social-emotional skills. We also use nature-based experiences to foster meaningful connections between peers and adults. Our educators will alternate between Leading the child, playing and interacting by the child’s side, and or allowing the child to take the lead by showing us their particular interests.
We create playful, loving environments in which on-the-move toddlers are safe, supported, and celebrated as they begin to take their initial steps into a bigger world.
“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature.
Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.”
– Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”
Our unique indoor and outdoor preschool features small class sizes, creative thinking, and hands-on learning, with an emphasis on school readiness. Our students spend a significant amount of time outdoors each day. They explore the campus grounds and the more distant spaces “in the beyond,” all the while learning and exploring nature.
When planning our lessons, we use a whole-child approach that is focused on the individual needs and interests of our students. We use an assessment tool in accordance with the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards to determine student skills and abilities and to ensure that our own learning and teaching standards are of the highest quality.
Our nature-based curriculum includes best practices in early childhood and environmental education. Our staff have training in both fields, and they engage in ongoing professional development to remain up-to-date, energized, and inspired.
Children in our preschool ask questions, make predictions, and observe results. They are given the tools and the time needed to investigate and draw conclusions, both on their own and in groups. In short, children in our preschool learn how to learn, and to love the process of learning! Our focus at this age is inquiry-based exploration, spending our days immersed in nature, getting our boots muddy, and having fun!
Tiny Green Trees serves organic fruits, vegetables as much as possible, avoiding ‘conventional’ chemical-laden, heavily processed foods. Teaching children the importance of healthy eating and understanding where food comes from improves their nutrition and instills better habits for life.
All children are born with curiosity and a desire to learn and play. At this age and stage, we find that the best learning is achieved when using all parts of your body, all senses, brain and heart, hands and feet. In our Forest Kindergarten, we use personal experience as the foundation on which we build learning.
Through our practice of practical life skills combined with real academic knowledge, the mixed-age group of children are all met at their individual physical, emotional, and academic development levels and guided to forge a path forward to succeed not just in their academically but in a way to better understand themselves, the relationships with their peers and the world around them.
Our skillfully crafted forest kindergarten curriculum is a balance of child-led play and focused learning guided by our experienced and certified teachers and the natural rhythm of our four seasons. This approach to learning prepares children to enter school-age programs with better concentration skills, more self-regulation awareness, a sense of wonder and independence, and deep problem-solving skills.
After spending time in forest school our graduates are calmer, have more self-confidence, and a better sense of their body, can resolve conflict easily, and are overall happier and more creative children. All this is obtained through learning outdoors, in all weather, and year-round. On any given day our Forest Kindergarten children can be found in our “beyond space” in all seasons, hiking the county park trails, digging in the snow, splashing in puddles, and dancing in the rain.
Forest School is neither a building nor a place; it is a method of learning that enriches the character of all who engage in it. At Tiny Green Trees we embrace this during our Wisconsin summer months in our school-age Outdoor Explorers program. It is the time of the year when we want our growing children to be “outdoors” playing with other children, away from screens, and coming home each day dirty and exhausted. We built this program to get them back outside after a long academic school year where they can breathe the fresh summer air, feel the heat of the sun, run in the grassy fields, and rest in the cool shade of the forest canopy.
Our environmental teachers act as guides for this summer play. They develop and direct theme-based programming and experiences that are authentic, meaningful, and engaging for all ages. The daily rhythm and planned activities are designed around building Confidence, Communication, Teamwork, and Empathy. Stress reduction, Physical Stamina, Creative Self-expression, Resilience, Curiosity, Problem Solving and more. By the end of the summer, our older children leave refreshed and ready for their next academic year with a renewed appreciation for being outside and friendships that only Forest School can offer.
The program runs 100% outdoors for twelve weeks and runs from early June through late August. It is designed for school-age children from 5 years of age – 9 years 11 months old. The group of 16 has a 1:8 student-to-staff ratio. Summer OUTdoor Explorer programming is planned from 9 am – 4 pm. With wrap-around care offered from 8 am- 9 am and 4 pm – 5 pm each day.