What is The Firefly Forest School exactly?
Firefly Forest School is an outdoor preschool program focusing on nature-based education. We also function as a homeschool tutorial for families who are interested in supplementing their homeschooling with outdoor learning. Forest schools as a whole originated in Scandinavia, but parents in the States are becoming increasingly supportive of Forest Schools. That’s why I started Firefly, we get back to basics when it comes to education, and allow our students to learn from nature and the outdoors.
What sets you apart from other preschools in the area?
In most preschools today, you’ll see a lot of structure and some varying degrees of technology being used like cameras, computers, and tablets. You’ll also see a lot of time is spent indoors. Pre-schools usually give their students anywhere from 20-40 minutes outside, if the weather is dry and above 50 degrees. Some days the children don’t even get to go outside but instead spend “recess” on a tablet. If they do go out for recess, it’s usually in a man made yard, with no natural structures to interact with.
At Firefly we practice “friluftsliv” or “open air life”. Our students spend 100% of the program outdoors, climbing boulders, balancing on fallen trees, building forts, and interacting with insects. Children learn to build their confidence through child-led play and supported risk taking, but they are also developing gross and fine motor skills. We have rules and structure to keep the children safe, but we allow each child to move through the day at their own pace. We are also completely screen free, which is great for little eyes. In fact, a recent article from Harvard Health Publishing mentioned that the best way to lower the risk for myopia (nearsightedness) in children is to get them outdoors everyday and away from screens.
Firefly is different from other preschools because we focus on developing the whole child. Children love to be outdoors because it’s where they learn about not only the world, but also themselves and their place in it.
Do you have multiple locations?
Yes, Mendham Wilderness School, in partnership with Schiff Nature Preserve, is our second location! Our first location is the Farm School in Rockaway. Both schools are Forest Schools, but each is unique in their own way. The Rockaway Farm School is located on a private farm with horses, chickens, honey bees, a cow and a pig. Children learn about farming and gardening in addition to forest school lessons. At the Mendham school, our focus is wilderness and survival training. Children have various terrains across multiple acres in a preserve to explore and practice their skills. Mendham is similar to the Scouts, while Rockaway is more focused on homesteading. However, we do plan to have garden beds at the Mendham school before September begins.
How does the application process work?
For the September 2024- June 2025 school year, we start enrolling January 20th 2024, but anyone who is interested should apply on our website now. Once you’ve applied and and paid the application fee, book an open house tour online. This is where you’ll be able to see the preschool grounds, meet with the director, and ask questions.
After your tour you’ll have the option to fill out registration forms and pay your deposit.
Our school has a limited number of spots because our teacher-student ratio is so low (1:5), so only the deposit secures the student’s spot
“Caregiver and me” classes, held in Randolph, are also recommended for interested families. These classes are like condensed versions of forest school, we craft, hike, read a story and have free play.”
Can we pick and choose days for our child to attend, or do they have to attend all five days?
Yes! Families have the option to pick and choose their days. However, we recommend a minimum of days a week, which is better for establishing routines.
Do you offer extended day school for working parents?
At the Mendham location we have a long day option of 9-2 for a very limited number of students, which is why it is so important to start the application process early. Once those few spots are filled, the remaining students can choose between 9-11 or 10-12. At the Rockaway location, we have a full day option for all of the students. Unfortunately, we don’t have extended hours just yet.
Is there anything else we should know about the Firefly Forest School?
Yes, even though we are an outdoor preschool program, both locations have access to buildings in the case of dangerous weather. The Mendham School has access to a school room inside the nature preserve building, and the Rockaway School has a small school house. If we do ever have an inside day, the children spend it crafting, reading and interacting with materials brought indoors from nature.
Also for those who are interested in getting Forest School started early, we offer Mommy and Me nature classes starting from 18 months old and social events for parents with infants!
To learn more about The Firefly Forest School, visit their website or follow them on social media below: