Just beyond a winding walkway, a patch of green, and an inviting teaching teepee, sits a partially concealed path leading into a grove of pine trees. More specifically, it leads to our newest outdoor classroom, known affectionately as The Secret Forest.
The Secret Forest premiered in the summer of 2020. Much like our seasonal fairy homes, we assumed it would be temporary. Over time, we fell in love with this classroom and with the type of program it could support: an entirely outdoor, adventure-based, nature-immersive classroom where the floor is literally a carpet of moss, and the Lake Michigan shoreline is just minutes away.
Special Features of the Secret Forest
This is a classroom where branches from the surrounding pines form beckoning ladders for children and tree-climbing is encouraged. Fallen tree limbs are gathered and used to build six-foot tall, conical structures. A clearing provides the perfect spot for ephemeral fairy houses. There is a traveling mud kitchen. There is a circle of tree stumps where children sit, talk, sing songs, and share stories.
Each of the four outdoor preschool classrooms has unique characteristics that inspire different types of play. What makes the Secret Forest so special is not just the materials it contains, it is also the distant, somewhat hidden location. For the average preschooler, the Secret Forest is a good five- or ten-minute walk from the building. Being there feels far from the beaten track and gives children the sense of being wild and free, while keeping them safely enclosed within a barely visible fence.
Introducing a New K4 Program
Since its first year in 2003, our Nature Preschool has offered enriching, nature-based experiences in beautiful outdoor settings. Now, we are delighted to announce that in 2022, we will be launching our very first morning K4 program. This K4 class will make full use of the Secret Forest, while still having access to our other three outdoor classrooms, and the special experiences each one provides.
This new K4 program will also use an all-outdoor forest classroom model, which is near the forefront of the growing forest school movement. We will not be using the building at all unless we need to take temporary shelter. The addition of a teaching teepee, just outside the Secret Forest, provides waterproof shelter when it rains, and can be heated in the winter to keep us cozy on single-digit days. We use outdoor campfires, hot tea, and fire-baked bread to stay warm in cold weather. It will truly be a school without walls.
While our new K4 program will be open to any child who is either four or five by September 1, it will be particularly well-suited to children who have already had a year of Nature Preschool. We will be framing this as our new K4 Forest Class.
We are now accepting applications for our 2022/23 Nature Preschool school year. Visit our website for details regarding this new K4 all-outdoor session and all our preschool offerings.