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Why create a nature-based preschool and kindergarten?

Scientific research in early childhood development shows the important connection between the time spent in nature and a child's developing brain. Being immersed in nature fosters children's intellectual, emotional, psychological, and physical growth.

What will my child do in Nature Preschool and kindergarten?

The preschool and kindergarten classrooms are positioned amongst many acres of natural habitats with doors that lead directly into the sensory garden, woods, and Tall Trees Playscape, an all-natural outdoor play space. The children will be outside daily, exploring the forest and ponds, discovering local plants and trees, and interacting with the native animals including birds, butterflies, frogs, and small mammals. Tall Trees Playscape will also have opportunities for digging, playing in the mud, and building with natural materials. As a part of the Schuylkill Center family, we will have the exciting chance to invite live animal visitors from the wildlife clinic to enhance our classroom experience

What does a typical day in Nature Preschool or kindergarten look like?

Our morning begins with arrival and free choice when the children explore and learn by visiting various centers in the preschool and kindergarten classrooms or outside. In the first part of our day, we gather the community for Morning Meeting and go over plans/schedule for the rest of the day and sing songs, share stories, and invite children to engage in discussion and the exchange of ideas regarding their thoughts and discoveries. Then, we prepare the children for outdoor exploration, often a combination of exploration on Tall Trees Nature Playscape and hikes/walks on the Schuylkill Center trails. After outdoor exploration and indoor choice, we have lunch followed by a brief rest time. Our afternoon is similar to the morning program, with a balance of outdoor and discovery based explorations, small and whole group activities, as well as guided experiential learning through exposure to the outdoors, raw materials, teacher invitations, and lessons.

How will a day in kindergarten be different than Nature Preschool?

In building our kindergarten curriculum and schedule, we continue to incorporate a balance of whole group learning, small group work, and outdoor exploration. There will be larger chunks of time dedicated to small group teaching where children will have the opportunity to work on guided reading, guided writing, social studies, science, and match concepts within the contexts of their studies or emergent themes. This will allow teachers to differentiate and individualize instruction based on the needs of the group.

If my child attends kindergarten at the Nature Preschool, will he/she be ready for first grade?

It is our goal to build confidence and curiosity to prepare children for the challenges of their school career. Allowing them to develop the social skills including taking turns, resolving conflicts, identifying individual needs in a group, compromising, accepting redirection, and emotional regulation in an open-ended way builds their academic readiness and the foundation needed for more complex concepts. Play is essential as a method of learning and we will continue to incorporate opportunities for this during the kindergarten day.

Do I need to be a Schuylkill Center member for my child to attend Nature Preschool and kindergarten?

You must be a member of the Schuylkill Center at the Family level or above to register your child for Nature Preschool and Kindergarten. If your membership is not current, you may join through the membership link on the Schuylkill Center website. You will also have the option to join or renew membership with your online registration for Nature Preschool. A membership offers unique access, experiences, and benefits to bring your child and family closer to nature while supporting the Center’s core programs: environmental education, land stewardship, wildlife rehabilitation, and environmental art.

Full benefits can be found here.

Why have multi-age programs?

Our children range in age from 3-5 years old. A key component of multi-age programs is children teaching children. The younger children often follow the lead of the older children, using new language, practicing new routines, and challenging themselves to try new skills. The older children are provided with the opportunity to gain leadership skills, engage in helping others, and practice explaining, teaching, and sharing. Our kindergarten program is for children who are at least 4 years, 7 months on the first day of school.

How does the emergent curriculum work and how can I be sure my child will be challenged developmentally?

Emergent curriculum means that lessons are not pre-planned and themes and studies are derived from the interests of the children. The themes that we study are always relevant to the concrete lives of young children and the immediate world around us (i.e. the study of water, insects, trees, etc.). Teachers become research partners with the children; working to answer questions together and supporting them to ask more questions and delve deeper into a certain topic. Our goal is to build internal motivation and long-term love of learning. We want children to ask questions and learn critical thinking skills.

Will Nature Preschool and kindergarten meet the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards?

Nature Preschool teachers are knowledgeable of the PA Early Learning Standards and incorporate these skills throughout our curriculum to fit your individual child's abilities and prepare them for kindergarten. Our kindergarten program is licensed as a private academic school, recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

How can parents and families be involved in the classroom?

Parents and families play a vital role in life in the Schuylkill Center Nature Preschool and kindergarten. We work to build an open partnership where everyone feels connected and involved. There are many ways to get involved and play a part in your child's educational experience. Opportunities throughout the year include attending classroom and Center events, becoming part of the Nature Preschool Parent Group, visiting the class to share your time and talents (displaying a talent, leading an art or craft activity, sharing your occupation, visiting and engaging with the children during play and choice time on any morning, etc.), and offering assistance to teachers in planning, set-up, or preparation for various classroom activities (both in the classroom or as a take-home task including collecting supplies, developing and compiling classroom documents, etc.). We appreciate all that our parents and families are able to do for us and there will be many opportunities for you to help throughout the year.

How will you assess my child's development?

The Nature Preschool and kindergarten staff use a combination of observation, documentation, and review of early childhood developmental milestones (through a variety of sources including work sampling and the PA Early Learning Standards), to chart your child's progress, and assess their areas of strength and future goals. We communicate with parents on a daily basis regarding classroom activities, and in a more structured way at scheduled parent teacher conferences. You can look forward to receiving a written block assessment at the first and second parent teacher conference. At the end of the year conference, you will receive a written narrative or child portfolio (dependent upon their age) documenting your child's growth and development throughout the year.

How will you make learning visible in the classroom?

In asking families to be involved in the classroom, we understand that it is important for you to know what is happening in the program. Throughout the year, documentation on walls including photographs and explanations of studies or classroom enrichment activities will be displayed for you to see. In addition, we look forward to communicating with families regarding events and classroom experiences through email, flyers, posted announcements, the Schuylkill Center blog, and weekly newsletters. This is our way to connect the classroom experiences to the skills being practiced and the content areas that are covered.

How old does my child need to be to attend Nature Preschool or kindergarten?

To attend our Nature Preschool program, children must be at least 3 years old by the first day of school. To attend our kindergarten program, children must be at least 4 years and 7 months old by the first day of school.

For more information or to schedule a tour, call 215-853-6294 or email