Nature Based Learning for Preschool-Aged Children

I think most adults today reflect on their own childhood as time spent outside; building forts and digging worms; taking bike rides and visiting the park and getting home at dark, but today's child doesn't get that opportunity. They are often not allowed to leave their fenced-in backyard. A parent doesn't feel good about letting them run around the neighborhood without any supervision. The sense of wonder and awe that's natural to childhood is being lost. - Teacher Heidi

Come Visit

Call today to schedule a tour!

3-4 Year Olds Mornings:


Every morning will begin with hot oatmeal and tea, followed later with a second snack that is not heated. 25% of the morning class will be spent outdoors, exploring the gifts of nature. The rest of the day will focus on learning routines and social skills in a homelike classroom that encourages imagination and wonder. Forest Friends is Waldorf-inspired and nature-based.

Up to twelve students will share their day with a teacher and a teacher assistant. Families are invited to participate in the classroom as a parent helper for a total of four times during the school year.

Tuition (Sept-June):
2 days/week (M,W or T,Th) $315/month
4 days/week $580/month

4-5 Year Olds Afternoons:


Children will arrive having already eaten lunch. 75% of our day will be spent exploring the outdoor classroom. One day a week, we will hike around a neighboring Commonwealth Lake Park, taking note of geese, ducks, and blue heron. Another day, we will explore the creek at Foothill Park, taking note of the water striders, tadpoles and other critters that reside there. We will eat 2 snacks a day, including warm, fresh baked bread and hot tea. We are Waldorf-inspired and nature-based.

Up to twelve students will share their day with a teacher and a teacher assistant. Families are invited to participate in the classroom as a parent helper for a total of four times during the school year.

Tuition (Sept-June):
4 days/week $580/month

4-5 Year Olds All Day:

8:30am - 4:30pm

Older children may participate in both the morning and afternoon programs. In the morning, they will enjoy a multi-age classroom of collaborative play. In the afternoon, they will join their older peers for exploration and adventure.

Children who stay all day will join us for lunch and a rest time on a daily basis or by appointment.

Tuition (Sept-June):
4 days/week $995/month

Friday Play Dates:
2-4 year olds with Parent

10am - noon
Fridays (twice each month)

  • Sept 29
  • Oct 13 and 20
  • Nov 3 and 17
  • Jan 5 and 19
  • Feb 2 and 9
  • Mar 9 and 16
  • Apr 13 and 20
  • May 11 and 18
  • Jun 1

Come join us as we meet other interested students and their parents. This is for new families interested in meeting us for the first time as well as for families who have decided to join us next year who wish to come as often as they can to get to know us. We will have time for free play, a story, a song, a snack, and outdoor exploration. Bring a rain coat and boots even if you don’t think you will need it. We can’t wait to see you. Please call ahead or email to let us know you will be coming and feel free to invite your friend with their child to attend along with you. There is not cost for attending once. If you plan to come frequently, it is asked that you pay $10 for each set of two classes. Applications will be available on site if you decide you would like to enroll for the fall of 2017.

Nature Based Learning

A Waldorf-inspired program that celebrates the wonder and awe of mother nature.

A Deep Love of Nature

Most adults happily recall much of their own childhood spent outdoors needing to be home by dark. Children today do not have as much access to green spaces where they can be the captain of their own pirate ship and treasure hunt for "gold" leaves. Children who learn outside have better developed gross motor skills, fine motor skills and problem solving skills. At Forest Friends, we learn through building boats and dams and bridges. Our observation skills are honed each day we examine the moss we use to build a fairy house or estimate the number of mallards at the lake on a clear fall day.


Through oral story telling, books, puppetry, and acting in plays, our students develop a great talent for telling a story. We learn about fairy tales and fables and classics and retell them in various ways, implementing the philosophy of Waldorf education. We learn how to narrate, act, take turns, and creatively bring our imagination to life. We ask that media characters not come to the classroom and that parents limit their child's access to media so that they can be the author of their own story: free to imagine a limitless possibility. Children who love dressing up learn to communicate their ideas and cooperate with others.


All I ever needed to know, I learned in kindergarten. Early childhood is the time that we learn to collaborate and cooperate and share. Empathy is a learned skill that is only learned through social experience. As we learn to care for the worms on a rainy day, we learn to care for each other and for our environment. As we study a bird’s nest we learn about how families care for each other. At Forest Friends, we learn how to become good stewards and good citizens.

Parent Testimonials

Our family spends time outdoors every day, thanks to Teacher Heidi. She teaches the children respect for the earth and for each other. Her impact on our family is very meaningful and lasting. - Anna Ruby

Teacher Heidi is a special person in our family. Both my children have such found memories of their time with her as their teacher. And I loved being parent helper and seeing her in action - I was always inspired by her ability to bring out the best in the children and nurture their sense of wonder and curiosity. Her focus on the outdoors adds some extra magic. - Sheryl Alstrin

The very best preschool for my daughter. She loves nature and Teacher Heidi! - Michele McCarthy

It's hard to describe how magical our journey with Teacher Heidi was for our daughter. We believe passionately in nature based education and were able to witness first hand what it did for our daughter during her 4 years in the program. Now at 7, she is keenly aware of her environment, no matter what it is, in the most intimate way. She notices and sees the tiniest things around her that most kids would miss. She has built confidence, collaboration skills, reverence and respect for nature and for people around her. Her awareness of her body and how it moves in the space around her is highly developed, as is her coordination. As an added bonus she also knows fully how to dress herself for any weather/any outdoor activity too, and she still wishes that her classroom were outside in the woods everyday. - Kim Brannock

More Testimonials

I saw a picture today of my son playing outside with a friend during his day at Forest Friends and I cried. The gift Heidi gives our children is immeasurable but the beauty of seeing my entire family enjoying the outdoors in ways we hadn't previously thought of (hello October parks trips in the wind, January hikes in the rain and sloshy March explorations!) helps make an account of it. We've had the pleasure of sending two of our kids to preschool with Teacher Heidi and look forward to when the younger two get their turns! - Kimberly Pearson

Teacher Heidi played a major role in helping my daughter become the awesome kid she is today. - Jason Ruby

Teacher Heidi

Heidi MannHeidi Mann earned a master’s degree in education from Portland State University with her research and work on early childhood and outdoor learning. She is on the cutting edge of her field. She leads parent and teacher education workshops. She is part of a growing movement of professional educators who focus on the importance of nature based learning. Heidi and her colleagues understand that there is a fundamental knowledge base which comes from experiences spent exploring our natural world.

More about Teacher Heidi

Assistant Teacher Maddie

Maddie Cole Maddie Cole is an assistant teacher at Forest Friends. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with a B.A. in History and a Museum Studies certificate. She followed it with a Professional Development Certificate in Free-Choice Learning from Oregon State University and will be starting courses in September to earn a Master’s in Early Childhood Education through Portland State University. Maddie has enjoyed working in many different hands-on educational settings.

More about Assistant Teacher Maddie

Submit an Application

A non-refundable $175 registration fee will be collected with registration paper work at the time of registration. There is no application fee.

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11915 SW Foothill Dr
Portland 97225

P: 503-660-8876

Located in the Cedar Hills neighborhood of Beaverton, Oregon near Commonwealth Lake Park.

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