Our Program and Philosophy
Santa Cruz Forest School is an entirely outdoor, nature-based program for 3 to 6-year-olds where the premise for our day-to-day activities is play, exploration, and discovery. Our mission is to guide and nurture the whole child. We believe the natural environment presents a wonderful setting where a child may grow and develop freely, that Mother Nature is our teacher and classroom, and that work and play are one. The outdoor classroom offers engaging learning experiences that develop the senses, both large and fine motor challenges, open-ended materials, and opportunities for imaginative play, all of which are necessary for early childhood development. In addition, forest school children will develop a deeper respect and sense of wonder for our environment, and most importantly, cultivate social relationship skills that form a foundation for learning.
We are pleased to partner with the NEST, a privately owned natural space with more than 30 acres of Redwood forest and meadow land dedicated to outdoor education. The NEST is located at 645 Toll House Gulch Road in Felton, CA. Our preschool program meets at the NEST Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00-1:00. T/K and Kindergarten meet Wednesday from 1:00-4:00 and is designed as an enrichment program for children who are enrolled in a morning school program.
On occasion, we will meet at State and County Park locations for field trips. Locations may include: Henry Cowell main entrance, Henry Cowell Ox Trail lot, Henry Cowell Campground, Henry Cowell Fall Creek, Pogonip (Golf Club Drive in Santa Cruz), and Quail Hollow Ranch. Parents will receive a field trip schedule.
Each day, children bring a lunch/snack, water for drinking, and an extra set of clothes in a plastic or “wet” bag labeled with their name. A handkerchief, sun-hat or rain protection depending on the circumstance is also recommended. All items should be labeled with the child’s name and fit in a backpack that is comfortable for the child to carry. We encourage everyone to carry their backpack when we hike, and co-teachers will carry lunch bags to lighten the loads. We have found child backpacks with a chest strap are very helpful. If your child enjoys sharing food, we suggest providing an additional simple healthy snack set aside for sharing with others. Our agreement with the children is that if they wish to share, there must be enough for everyone. Please label all clothing and lunch bags/boxes with your child’s name.
Children gather at the upper fire circle for drop off and enjoy free play or organized large motor games until all the children arrive. We begin our day with a short hike to a “base camp”, where we hold a welcome circle, songs and announcements for the day. There are a variety of spaces at the NEST where we may choose to set up base camp. Following circle, the children have free play and exploration until their bodies begin to tell them they are hungry. We spread a picnic blanket and eat together. Children are encouraged to complete simple tasks themselves, such as removing shoes, opening and packing up lunch containers, etc., but teachers are always available to assist and help them learn. After snack, free play and exploration continues until we break for a second snack or finish the day with a gratitude circle, where everyone tells what they are thankful for. Light integration of materials like yarn for crafting, nature journals for story dictation and drawing, drums and sound makers, etc., is often available during free play. Each day varies according to the lead and interests of the children. After our thank you circle, we hike back to the upper fire circle for pick-up.
In preparation for forest school, you may want to discuss poison oak, stick safety, and the importance of listening with your child. We teach the children to recognize and stay away from poison oak. Although there is no better way to learn to identify plants than in the wild, you may want to show your child some pictures of poison oak to re-enforce recognition, or practice while you are hiking together. We also recommend washing with soap or Technu and a washcloth after school (especially during spring) to prevent the rash. Be sure to check for ticks every day after forest school.
Stick play is a natural element of our program, and we work with the children on playing safely - namely only "stick on stick, tip to tip" when engaging with others, and never hitting or poking our friends. Our friends include animals of the forest, as well as the other children and teachers. If a child intentionally hits another student, teacher, or animal with a stick, the stick will be removed and we will talk with the child about the importance of keeping everyone safe around sticks.
Because we are not confined by walls or fences, we emphasize the importance of listening when a teacher calls a student back to the group or asks a student not to run ahead on a hike or adventure. Listening is a skill we cultivate at Forest School – listening to our feelings, our friends, our bodies, and our surroundings.
We meet rain or shine. Children will need adequate rain clothing such as a waterproof jacket, boots, and rain pants. The NEST has a large army tent equipped with a wood-burning stove that we will use as a shelter in case of excessive rain. On cold days, layered clothing, a warm jacket, cap and mittens are a must. If your child does not like to be out in all types of weather, you may want to re-consider the forest school program.
Logistical Information and Tuition:
Tuesday/Thursday 9:00 - 1:00 PM
T/K Wednesday 1:00 - 4:00 PM
First Day of School: Tuesday, September 3rd
Last Day of School: Thursday, June 4th
Please arrive within ten minutes of start time and walk your child to the upper fire circle along the main road at the NEST. After saying goodbye, please head promptly back to the parking lot. If you wish to socialize with other parents, the parking lot area is the best place for this.
Fall Break: Nov. 25-29
Winter Break: Dec. 23-Jan. 3
Spring break: April 6-10
We maintain a 1:4 teacher/student ratio to ensure quality care for your child as they explore the outdoors.
Annual tuition is based on a 9-month calendar. When you register your child, you are committing to the full school year.
Tuesday/Thursday: Annual tuition is $3,240 for the 2-day, 9-month program for children ages 3 - 5. The total may be paid in 9 monthly installments of $360 due on the last business day of the prior month. New this year, families who pay the full annual tuition in one lump sum totaling $3,000 receive a discount of $240.
T/K Wednesday: Annual tuition is $1,260 for the 1-day, 9 month program for children ages 4.5 - 6. The total may be paid in 9 monthly installments of $140 or one lump sum of $1,170.
A 10% sibling discount is available and will be applied to the second child’s tuition upon request.
Personal checks may be hand delivered or mailed to:
The Santa Cruz Forest School
P.O. Box 66483
Scotts Valley, CA
You may also use PayPal "friends and family" with a linked bank account (no credit cards please). Paypal.me/forestschool
Non-refundable $30 registration/supply fee: due with registration
September 2019 due first day of school
October 2019 due September 26th
November 2019 due October 31st
December 2019 due November 28th
January 2020 due January 7th
February 2020 due January 30th
March 2020 due February 27th
April 2020 due March 31st
May 2020 due April 30th
Repeated late payments may be grounds for termination and parents who are more than 2 weeks late on payment will be considered as withdrawing from the program and we will begin to fill their spot
with another family.
In the interest of maintaining the Santa Cruz Forest School as a sustainable program for all involved, we cannot reimburse families for missed days. We have a limited enrollment and your tuition ensures a space for your child. The only circumstance for which tuition will be reimbursed or a make-up day scheduled is in the instance that we are forced to cancel class due to extreme or dangerous weather situations or road closures blocking the entrance to the NEST.
Late pick up fee:
Pick up time is 1:00 pm. A late fee of $10 will be applied if you arrive more than 15 minutes late to pick up your child. Transitions can be particularly difficult for children during early childhood. Arriving on time helps to ensure that your child will be able to transition in and out of school with ease and reinforces the successes of the day.
If you choose to withdraw your child from the Santa Cruz Forest School, we require a 30-day written (or emailed) notice in order to fill your child’s spot in the group. You will be responsible for tuition until your child’s space is filled or 30 days have passed, whichever occurs first.
• 33 months old or older by the first day of forest school
• Toilet trained by the start of forest school. Unlike traditional indoor programs, your child will frequently be sorting through many layers of clothing before going to the bathroom. The ability to know and regulate toileting is therefore a necessity.
• Your child must be prepared (and want!) to be outside rain or shine.
Clothing Suggestions (Please label all clothing with your child’s name):
• Comfortable, warm and waterproof footwear
• Loose fitting clothing that can get muddy and dirty and possibly torn.
• Rain pants, jacket, boots (bring/wear as necessary)
• One pair of extra clothes stored in child’s backpack (i.e. pants, shirt, underwear, and socks).
• During cold weather: hat, mittens, long-underwear, fleece or down jacket, wool or thick socks.
• Bag for wet clothing – some parents find a waterproof cloth bag works well.
Your Child’s First Day:
Starting preschool is a big step for most children. Some may adjust quickly and easily while others are more nervous at first but warm up as they engage in activities. Others still may have a longer adjustment period. There is no “right way” for your child to adjust to forest school. Our expectations are open-ended and we understand your child will adapt in his or her own way.
There are many ways to prepare your child for the first day of school, such as talking about it during the week before school starts. “Next week you’ll be going to Forest School! What fun!” It’s important to tell your child exactly what will happen at drop-off and follow through, recognizing that if a child does not know when a parent is leaving, there can be unnecessary stress waiting for that moment to occur. Planning and practicing a routine can be comforting for everyone involved. When it comes to saying goodbye, trust that doing just that is the best course of action and that it will ensure to your child that you are confident they are going to be fine.
We value the relationship between parents and teachers and work together to nurture the growth of children during this important developmental time. We are always happy to schedule time to discuss any social, emotional, or developmental questions either by phone, e-mail, or in person. Please let us know of any significant events in your child’s life such as visitors, work trips, moving, new babies, divorce, illness or death, as these types of things can affect children in class. When we know about these changes we can better offer support and encouragement to your child.
If we find after starting school that your child requires more one-on-one attention than we can safely provide, we may ask you to provide a companion or withdraw your child from the program. This is only in extreme cases and we will be in communication with you far in advance of this result and do everything to transition your child into our program successfully. Early intervention is the key to success for many special needs children, and preschool can be a time where these needs become evident.
If negative behavior occurs, teachers will address and seek to resolve it directly with the child.
• Hurting another child or throwing a tantrum leads to being away from the group until the child is calm enough to rejoin.
• Abuse of an activity or object (such as a stick) leads to a loss of the privilege of using that object or participating in the activity for a time.
• Repeated unprovoked hurting of another child and/or using objects as weapons to injure staff or children leads to a call to the parent to come and take the child home.
We teach and encourage children to respect others and their surroundings by using problem solving and conflict resolution skills. We also use redirection, positive modeling, and gentle reminders to foster positive behavior. Physical punishment, such as spanking, is strictly prohibited. Any cruel and unusual discipline that is frightening or humiliating is never used.
On or near your child’s birthday, you are welcome to bring a special snack and stay for our welcome circle where we will sing the Happy Birthday song. Please check beforehand to make sure there are no dietary restrictions in the group and avoid excessive sweets. Muffins, fruit, pretzels or popcorn are good options. For students with summer birthdays, we can either celebrate them at the end of the year or celebrate half-birthdays. When the time comes, just let us know how you would like to handle your child’s special day.
Sick Child Policy:
Parents are required to keep children home if the child shows any signs of illness listed below or is unable to participate in the normal routine of forest school. Sick children will expose all children and staff members who they come in contact with. Even in our open air environment, others may become ill due to exposure to your sick child. Another thing to keep in mind is that a full day of rest may prevent multiple weeks of trying to recover from an illness.
Symptoms that should keep your child home:
• Fever of 100°F or higher: a child needs to be fever free (without the aid of any fever reducing substance) for a minimum of 24 hours before returning to forest school
• Diarrhea: More than one loose stool within the last 24-hour period.
• Vomiting. More than once in the last 24-hour period.
• Severe coughing with runny nose and green mucus.
• Rashes: Un-identifiable or non-typical rash
• Pink-eye (conjunctivitis): Redness of eyelid, swelling and/or discharge
• Frequent scratching of body or scalp, lice, rash, or any other spots that resemble childhood diseases, including ringworm.
• Child is irritable, continuously crying, or requires more attention than we can provide without hurting the health, safety or well-being of the other children in our care.
Immunizations and Exemption:
We request that families submit a vaccination record prior to the start of school, and update it with changes as they occur. Families have the right to choose not to vaccinate their children for personal, philosophical, or medical reasons. Santa Cruz Forest School is license-exempt as an organized camp as defined in Health and Safety Code Section 18897, so we do not require vaccinations. As an outdoor program, there is the possibility that your child will come into contact with metals that could pose a potential threat of tetanus.
We sincerely appreciate your support of the Forest School program and constantly strive to make each day a joyous one for all involved. We are continuously grateful to our forest families, teachers, the NEST, and our state and county parks that provide the space to support our program. We look forward to a time together filled with wonder, growth, community, and laughter.