Berkeley Forest School


We climb trees.
We sing loudly.
We eat miner's lettuce.
We talk to gnomes.
We love mud.

Join us.


Our early childhood cooperative is a place-based outdoor program for children aged 3.5 and older. Together, teachers and students collaborate with our locations to better understand the world we share. Our place-based program rotates through these living laboratories, where our class engages with each environment throughout multiple seasons in one year.

We provide children the space to grow their creativity, critical thinking skills, and social-emotional literacy by cultivating a collaborative and respectful group dynamic. Children are encouraged to direct their own learning. Through observing a child's play, a forest school teacher can thoughtfully craft play-invitations, pose questions, or tell stories, which will support a child's investigative process by giving them the tools they need to ignite further ideas and critical thought.

Berkeley Forest School's approach maintains emphasis on the process of learning over the content. We are free from the limitation of planned activities. We venture collaboratively into the unplanned, unexpected, and endless wonder of the unknown.

Our program is inspired by Forest Schools throughout Europe, and the Reggio Emilia approach to inquiry-based learning.

The Berkeley Forest School kindergarten class follows the same approach as our preschool program, with the children constructing their own knowledge in a community of co-learners. Play is the way a child learns, even in the kindergarten year. Call it exploration, investigation, research... for children, it's all play. Child-directed learning in the early years often follows a specific rhythm: form a question, research (discuss with others), experiment (try it yourself), repeat the experiment, hypothesize (“I think...”), test the theory, document and analyze results with peers, report findings to the group. Sound familiar? Children at play model the scientific method routinely and without prompting.

An empowered, self-directed learner is a natural scientist. By supporting a child's inquiry, facilitating his or her process, and cultivating a respectful and collaborative school culture, we build a foundation of confidence and critical thinking. Berkeley Forest School kindergarteners feel welcomed, free to explore, and know that their ideas and emotions are valued.

We operate as a cooperative to strengthen the school-family relationship and to strengthen our community. Families are each responsible for working two 5-hour days per month. Parents must also attend three 2-hour co-op meetings/workshops per school year, work at least one school event per year, and participate in a parent committee.

Through their involvement, parents get to see their children in a new light—thriving among their peers, challenging the ideas of a friend, standing up for their own beliefs, accomplishing a goal they've set for themselves and have been intrinsically motivated to work on—all while gaining a deeper understanding of child development, natural gross motor development, non-violent communication, and respectful caregiving, and all under the open sky.

Parents participating in the Berkeley Forest School preschool cooperative grow along with a community of supportive, like-minded families to lean on through these wonderfully exhausting years of raising young children together. Our families form lasting bonds and usually spend a lot of time together outside of school at birthday parties, play dates, and the occasional family-organized camping trip or picnic.

Because of the nature of our inquiry-based program, no two days are ever alike. We structure our days in a predictable rhythm, with the flexibility to follow the children's investigative process wherever it leads us.

We meet four days per week, Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm. Every day, each child brings a backpack with a spare change of clothing appropriate for that day's weather and a water bottle. Children must also bring a snack and a sack lunch on most days, though some snacks and lunches will be provided over the course of the year on days when we cook together or harvest crops.

Daily rhythm

Arrival—Greetings and everyone settles in.

Adventure—Free unstructured play for all preschoolers and kindergarteners together.

Morning Snack is determined by each child for his or her own body's needs.

Morning Gathering—We sing our morning greeting song, and check in with our friends about what ideas they have for the day. The forest school teacher introduces the day's invitation: a prompt or starting point which the children are free to engage with as deeply as they'd like, or are able to. Free play and self-directed work continues. During this time a teacher will check in with children individually, and in small groups.

Picnic Lunch—Together we eat our sack lunch and listen to stories. Children listen to their bodies and determine when they've had their fill.

Listen to the Wind—We close our eyes and listen to the songs of our surroundings, breathing deeply.

Goodbye—Children depart.

Teachers meet and review the day, and exchange observation notes.

We meet from September through June, in three seasonal sessions. See calendar at right.

Tuition for the school year is $8,250. Tuition may be split into 10 equal payments of $825 per month, paid on the first of the month from September through June. Please inquire for sibling discounts.

For more information about the Berkeley Forest School's preschool and kindergarten co-op program, contact us using the form below. Please tell us about your child, including his or her name and date of birth. We would like to know what has drawn you to our program, what experience you and your family have had with child-led and/or outdoor learning, and what other preschool programs your child has participated in. We will respond as soon as possible with additional information.

Preschool Schedule

7 September
Welcome Families!
Coffee and tea in the Orchard

8 September
Fall Session Begins

19 September
Fall Equinox Family Picnic

12 October
Indigenous Peoples Day—No School

25–30 November
Thanksgiving Holiday—No School

12 December
Winter Solstice Family Campfire

21–30 December
Winter Holiday—No School

4 January
Winter Session Begins

18 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday—
No School

15 February
President's Day Holiday—No School

20 March
Spring Equinox Family Hike

28–31 March
Spring Holiday—No School

4 April
Spring Session Begins

18 April
Growth & Development Day—No School

16 May
Malcom X Holiday—No School

30 May
Memorial Day Holiday—No School

11 June
Summer Solstice Family Crafts

16 June
Last Day! Sunflower Ceremony

27 June
Summer Camp Begins!
See our Summer Camp page for more information.
Registration begins January 2016.

All text and photographs copyright Berkeley Forest School. Illustrations copyright Steven Noble.
Any unauthorized use is prohibited.