The Santa Cruz Forest School
Santa Cruz Forest School is an entirely outdoor, nature-based program for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. The foundation for our day-to-day learning is play, exploration, and discovery. Our main goal at SCFS is to cultivate friendship and connection among our young explorers while gently guiding them through challenges and conflict with mindfulness and listening. Forest School children often develop a deeper respect and sense of wonder for our environment while cultivating social emotional skills that form a foundation for learning.
Mother Nature serves as both our teacher and classroom, where work and play are one.
The outdoor classroom offers engaging learning experiences that develop all of our senses. It offers open-ended materials, opportunities for imaginative play, and both large and fine motor challenges, all of which are necessary for early childhood development.
Sometimes the first program away from close family members, we strive to meet the children with compassion and kindness. We offer opportunities for games and nature discovery; morning meeting with songs and greetings; free unstructured play in the natural environment. On any day, we may hike in the forest, play at the sandpit, make nature crafts, and play running games. We offer space for children to explore their interests and be themselves, building community through laughter and gratitude.
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 maintain a 1:5 teacher/student ratio to ensure quality care for your child as they explore the outdoors.
What to Bring:
extra set of clothes in plastic or wet bag
handkerchief, sun-hat and/or rain protection
long sleeve or jacket for cool mornings
Winter session will require a waterproof rain jacket, rain pants and rain boots. Base layers and socks should be of non-cotton material. Wool or synthetic (polyester and nylon) are highly recommended.
Children will carry their own backpacks. We have found child backpacks with a chest strap are very helpful, especially in combination with a rain coat. Please label all clothing and lunch bags/boxes with your child’s name.
We are a drop-off program that meets Tuesday-Friday.
You may choose 2 days (T/Th, W/F) or 4 days (T-F)
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 is strictly prohibited. Any cruel and unusual discipline that is frightening or humiliating is never used.
If we discover that your child requires more one-on-one attention than we can safely provide in a group setting, we may ask you to provide a companion or withdraw your child from the program.
We meet outside, rain or shine. We like to schedule field trips to public green spaces when possible.
To hear a pre-pandemic interview with Amanda Bell, director of SCFS, click on the following link. "Inside Education" begins at the 2 minute mark.
Each day varies according to the lead and interest of the child.
Activities may include:
Climbing, building, and crafting from what nature offers us
Whittling sticks using a potato peeler
Discovering and naming plants, mushrooms, insects, lizards, and salamanders
Dramatic play (the opportunities are endless in the forest)
Hide and seek
Puddle-stomping and rain dancing
sword fighting using sticks
Looking for creatures under logs
We're careful with our friends bodies and feelings, as well as the tiniest ants and spiders.
Labor Day: September 5th
Fall Break: November 21-25
Winter Break: December 19 - January 2
Staff Training: February 13-17
Spring break: April 3-14
Last Day of School: Friday, May 26th
• 36 months old or older by the first day of forest school
• Able to know and regulate their body without diapers, aka potty-trained.
• Your child must be prepared (and want!) to be outside rain or shine, cool or warm.
• Comfortable, warm and waterproof footwear
• Loose fitting clothing that can get muddy and dirty
• Waterproof rain pants, rain jacket, boots
• During cold weather: hat, mittens, long-underwear (no cotton), fleece or down jacket, wool socks.