Seeking a Forest School

NOTE: BPN does not accept posts about unlicensed programs for children under 5 unless the program has a legal exemption. See Forest Schools & Other Unlicensed Programs for Preschoolers

Parent Q&A

  • Are there forest schools for K-5?

    (1 reply)

    I've seen a lot of forest preschools, but are there forest schools for K-5? 

    I love what forest schools offer - the chance for kids to explore in a kid-friendly environment, a place for kids to learn by pursuing their curiosity, a place for kids to learn about the ecology they live in and about how living things are connected, a chance for kids to get a sense of place and of the unique environment of the bay area. I want my kids to be able to continue this past just the age of 3 or 4 or 5. Are there any forest schools that are offering a nature-based education for elementary school (or beyond?) Not just a few days of "environmental education" or a wilderness trip, but a school that meets in the woods most or all of the time. 


    Moderator note: 

    forest school is a preschool-type program for children that takes place exclusively outdoors. These programs often are not licensed because they don't have a permanent indoor site that can be inspected and approved as part of the licensing process. Forest schools without a permanent indoor space have been told by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) that they cannot be licensed or that they don't need a license. BPN does not accept posts about unlicensed programs for children under 5.  We have written to CCLD to ask whether these outdoor programs can be licensed, because they are becoming increasingly popular and parents ask about them often on BPN. As of Spring 2017, we have received no response from CCLD. 

    BPN does not accept posts about unlicensed preschool programs for children under 5, including classes or other activities these programs operate that do not require a license.  We recommend that parents not use unlicensed programs for their young children, because basic protections for children cannot be assured, including background checks for all adults, safety and first-aid training for staff, and ensuring adult-to-child ratios. For more information about BPN's policy on licensing see About Childcare Licensing in California.

    If a forest school accepting only children 5 and older is recommended to this site, we will accept that post, but so far we've seen just preschools, or elementary-age programs that also accept children under age 5.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Does this type of school exist?

Feb 2015

I know what I am looking for may be a fantasy but I am willing to compromise on some of it. Basically we are looking for a school, a co-op school or a group of people who want to start this school with us. The school would have a ton of outdoors time- at least half the day; animals (small farm animals), be child-centered, inquiry-based and maybe mixed ages. I know it sounds like a lot of Waldorf schools but we are looking for other options. There are some amazing outdoor schools in the Pacific NW but they are mainly for toddlers and small kids. We are looking for that kind of school for older kids - up to 12th grade. Also not looking to break our bank as we are limited on funding. Any leads? It seems like there were once schools like this a few years ago that closed. Thanks for your help! Anon

I'm also looking for an outdoors-based school for my kids; the important thing for me, though, both due to political principle and because I'm a student and single mom, is that it must be financially accessible to people who are low-income. Not along the lines of the scholarships offered by many private schools, which really only make those schools affordable to families that are already middle class, but affordable the way government subsidized preschool programs and public schools are affordable. What a dream, right? I'd love to work with others on making this a reality--at present I know nothing about starting up a school or afterschool program. It seems to me that it would be easier to start as an afterschool program then grow from there, though I would also love to have something for younger kids, like my own! But I don't see the point in expending my few resources to set up a program that is out of reach for those who most need the benefits of an outdoor education, and judging by the current state of early childhood education in the Bay Area, it looks like all the nature/outdoors-based schools are prohibitively expensive and/or have limited hours which working/student parents, especially single parents, can't realistically do. outdoors education fan

Hello, We are exploring developing an alternative education / homeschool resource center that would look a lot like this. We weren't planning to include high school age immediately, but I'd love to talk! Rose

Your post reminded of The Mill School in Maine It was founded by a former student of mine. I'm sure she would be happy to talk with you about your vision. Good luck with quest!

You should take a tour of Ring Mountain Day School in Mill Valley. I know they have small animals, and are child-centered, inquiry based and quite a small school. K-8 only though, not thru 12.