Our comprehensive nature-based preschool uses the Nature Center grounds as a “living classroom” where children can develop physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. Children’s free expression in the natural environment — whether it be building a fort, holding a snake or hiking along a trail — allows for the development of a lifetime of skills. Children in our preschool attend either two, three or five days per week from September to June and spend at least half of their day outside, to fully engage their senses year-round in a safe and nurturing environment.

Curriculum & Goals

Our curriculum is a comprehensive blend of environmental education and traditional, play-based preschool standards. We use the natural world as the guiding theme when we present science, art and music, math, language and literacy, dramatic play and other curriculum areas. In this way, we address each child’s total development with an interesting and hands-on program that nurtures children’s love of the world around them. Our goal is to foster the growth of whole, well-rounded, happy children, and to inspire an appreciation for the natural world and a lifetime environmental ethic. To accomplish this, we align our activities to achieve the following goals of the Connecticut Framework for Preschool Curricular benchmarks:

  • Allow each child the ability to establish a sense of confidence, responsibility, self-discipline and social grace through experiences in the natural world, the classroom and with other children.
  • Instill a deep sense of wonder and a desire for self-directed learning through thought -provoking, interesting and meaningful outdoor experiences.
  • Cultivate physical and mental health by providing opportunities to develop motor skills, healthy eating habits and self-help skills in a safe, secure, developmentally appropriate and challenging atmosphere.
  • Create an environment where children are given experiences that will inspire their curiosity and naturally improve their ability to question, reason and recall new things.

Our Daily Schedule

8:30 am – Welcome to School: Children are greeted outside in the playground or in the classroom. They have free time to explore materials, games and themed activities, greet friends, and observe animals while making a gentle transition from home to school.

9:30 am – Circle time: Children gather to discuss the nature theme of the week. They participate in songs, finger plays, stories, puppetry and exploration of related natural materials. They experience live animal encounters with our resident animals and periodically have musical encounters with Ms. Davnet and her guitar, Executive Director of DPNC and founder of the preschool. (Outside whenever possible)

10:00 am – Snack time: Healthy snacks are served family style at communal tables indoors or out depending on weather.

10:30 am – Outdoor Exploration & Hike Time: Explore, hike, pond dip, visit streams, pretend play, observe and listen, and play games throughout the Nature Center.

12:00-12:30 pm Pick-Up Time: Children play in outdoor play areas near the preschool while parents arrive for pick up.

How to Apply

Applications are accepted at any time during the year, and are maintained on a waitlist for the year of projected entry. Spaces at the preschool are limited and are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, with an effort to invite diversity and a balance of ages in each class. Applying to the program does not guarantee your child a spot in the program. Children must be three years of age on or before December 31 to be admitted to the program in September.

For admission at any other time the child must have passed their third birthday. Children must be toilet trained and self-sufficient. Every child is required to have a physical (within one year) and a corresponding health record, signed and dated by their pediatrician.

Please fill out the application form below and email it to Preschool Director Pauline Gaucher at p[email protected]

Tuition & Fees

Two Days – $2,925 ($325/month)

Three Days – $4,320 ($480/month)

Five Days – $7,200 ($800/month)

A $300 non-refundable enrollment fee is required upon notification of placement in the program. Annual tuition is payable in nine monthly installments beginning August 15. Payment in full is accepted at any time.


Current research continues to show the benefits of time spent in nature for children and adults alike. The Nature Center offers a limited number of partial scholarships to the Nature Center Preschool Program, based on need and availability of funding. Scholarships up to 50% of the annual tuition may be awarded. To learn more, please contact Preschool Director Pauline Gaucher at [email protected].

ABCs of Preschool Enrollment

1. Fill out and return a preschool application form.

2. Enrollment begins in March. We will notify you as space becomes available.

3. When you receive a placement, pay a non-refundable $300 enrollment fee. The preschool program is a benefit for members, if your membership is not active, please join or renew at this time.

4. Return your signed tuition contract and enrollment paperwork before school starts.

5. Show up at school ready for fun!

For Inquiries

Please contact Preschool Director Pauline Gaucher with any questions regarding preschool enrollment at [email protected] or 860-980-3705. All inquiries, applications and answers will remain confidential.