The Saplings program at Fernbrook Farms is a play-based nature program for young learners aged 3-5. The program aims to provide the roots for lifelong connection with nature and love of learning. Saplings students explore and play outdoors for much of their day, immersed in Fernbrook’s many diverse ecosystems.

Learning at Saplings is child-led, nature-inspired, and focused on fun. Students are encouraged to follow their natural curiosities, to explore and experiment, to wonder and discover. Saplings teachers are there to guide students in their nature investigations, deepen their learning with hands-on activities, join them in open-ended nature play, and support them as they try new things and challenge themselves. We hope you can join us!

“Being outside in the elements, exploring, and experiencing small and large challenges, made my little girl strong, confident and brave!”

- Kristin K., Saplings Parent

A handful of

Our Features

  • Emphasis on child-led, play-based learning
  • A high % of each day spent outside
  • Small class sizes
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Mixed-age socialization
  • Indoor and outdoor classroom spaces
  • Teachers certified in nature-based education


The rhythm of

Our Day

At Saplings, the day’s events follow a consistent order without adhering to strict timetables. This provides students with the predictable routine they need to thrive, while also accommodating the flexibility that child-led education requires. The times noted below are meant as general guide.

8:00 – 9:00:   Before care**

8:30 – 9:00:   Drop-off window

9:00 – 10:00:  Mixed-age free play, typically in our “Saplings Spot” outdoor classroom and play area

10:00 – 10:45: Circle time and snack

10:45 – 12:00: Morning adventure: typically a child-driven visit to one of Fernbrook’s forests, fields, or wetlands, or a project-based activity inspired by nature

12:00 – 12:30:   Lunch

12:30:               Pick-up for half-day students

12:30 – 2:00:     Quiet time: a chance for students to nap or relax independently as they re-energize their minds and bodies

2:00 – 3:30:      Snack and second adventure

3:30 – 3:45:      Pick-up window for full-day students

3:45 – 5:00:      After care**


** Before and after care is available upon request for an additional hourly fee

a few of

Our Activities

With 230 acres and so many unique ecosystems to explore, the opportunities for adventure and exploration are endless.

Here is just a peek at what our Saplings might experience at Fernbrook:

  • Catching bugs in the meadow
  • Making clay sculptures and racing bark boats at the creek
  • Splashing in puddles in the CSA fields
  • Fishing at the pond
  • Crafting with natural materials
  • Building shelters and climbing fallen trees in the forest
  • Hunting for frogs in the swamp
  • Collecting and cooking with eggs from the chicken coop
  • Sharing stories while picnicking on the Great Lawn
  • Tending the vegetables and herbs in the garden
  • Creating music around a campfire

“I will be forever grateful for the positive impact Saplings made in my daughter’s life. She is resilient, curious, and confident in nature because of your program. I recommend Fernbrook to every family I meet!”

- Delpha G., Saplings Parent

using nature play to

Prepare for Kindergarten

The Saplings program is designed for children who are preparing to enter kindergarten and is not intended to replace kindergarten. Through the use of child-centered emergent curriculum, trained educators will use the interests of the students to guide them through cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development, ultimately preparing them for success in kindergarten and beyond. Some examples of how teachers may facilitate the specific growth of literacy and math skills include, but are not limited to:

  • Stopping to read and point out letters on our trail signs
  • Going on a letter scavenger hunt in the forest and using sticks to practice making letters in the dirt
  • Journal time – each child will have their own nature journal where they can draw pictures and write about their experiences
  • Using field guides to identify plants and wildlife
  • Counting the number of petals or a flower, or legs on a bug finding
  • Investigating shapes and patterns in nature
  • Measuring ingredients as we make a special snack for us or the animals
  • Comparing the sizes of different trees in the forest or of different fish caught in the pond

"I remember when my son was about three, in the constant questioning stage. Trying to be a good mother, I dutifully answered every question with some informative explanation. Then one day in the middle of another train of questions and answers, he suddenly wailed up at me, "Mom, DON'T ANSWER!" and he burst into tears of outrage. I was stunned, but crouching down to hug his tears away, I realized that he didn't want my answers. All those questions were a plea to come into his world with him, at his level, to join with him in his curiosity."

-Ellen Haas, Don't Answer!


Tuition Costs

Please note that your child must be 3 years old and must be fully potty-trained^ by the start of the program in September.
The Saplings program is intended to prepare children for kindergarten. Students enrolling for the 2024-25 school year should be born after June 11, 2019 and before September 3, 2021.

Full Day (9 – 3:30)* Mornings (9 – 12:30)*
Sept.-Dec. Jan.-June Sept. – June Sept.-Dec. Jan.-June Sept. – June
16 Weeks 24 Weeks 40 Weeks 16 Weeks 24 Weeks 40 Weeks</td
2 Days/Week $2446 $3668 $6114 $1458 $2182 $3640
3 Days/Week $3484 $5224 $8708 $2084 $3126 $5210
4 Days/Week $4402 $6592 $10994 $2646 $3968 $6614
5 Days/Week $5196 $7794 $12990 $3140 $4714 $7854

*Extended Care is available in both the mornings and afternoons for an additional hourly fee. In the mornings, you can drop-off as early as 8 am and in the afternoons, you can stay as late as 5 pm. Please let us know if you will be needing extended care.

^Fernbrook Farms defines fully potty trained by the following:

  • Child is able to use the bathroom without assistance, ie. can pull down/pull up pants and underwear, get on and off the toilet, and wipe after use on their own.
  • Child recognizes their need to use the bathroom before an emergency and will tell an adult they need to go BEFORE they have to go.

A $250 deposit of your tuition is required to confirm your child’s enrollment. Various payment installments exist and can be selected on the enrollment/registration form.


A quick look at...

Our 2024-2025 Calendar

September 3, 2024 – First day of Saplings

October 7, 2024 – Closed for staff in-service day

November 27 – November 29, 2024 – Closed for Thanksgiving break

December 20, 2024 – Last day of first semester

December 23, 2024 – January 1, 2025 –  Closed for Winter break

January 2, 2025 – First day of second semester

January 20, 2025  – Closed for MLK Day

February 17, 2025 – Closed for President’s Day

February 18, 2025 – Closed for staff in-service day

May 26, 2025 – Closed for Memorial Day

June 11, 2025 – Last day of second semester