Nature Preschool

Welcome to Nature Preschool

Our Nature Preschool uses the grounds around the Nature Center as a “living classroom” where children can develop cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Our curriculum is a comprehensive blend of environmental education and traditional, play-based preschool standards.

Nature plays a vital role in the emotional, social and cognitive development of young children. Childhood experiences in nature help stimulate curiosity and interest in the world around us, and help us grow intellectually in our desire to better understand the world and our place in it. DPNC’s 350-acre sanctuary serves as a living classroom for our preschool. It is an ideal place for children to learn through direct experience and play. Our children spend time outdoors every day, where they can fully engage all their sense in a safe and nurturing environment. 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.

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.

best of PreschoolChildren ages 3 to 5 may attend Monday-Wednesday-Friday, Tuesday-Thursday or all five days. There is a flexible drop-off time of 8:30 to 9, and pick-up from 12-12:30. The schedule includes outside time every day.

Your family must belong to the Nature Center in order to apply for admission to the Nature Preschool. September enrollments start in February, and children must be 2.9 to 5 years old.

Every child needs nature. To help more children benefit from a natural childhood, the Nature Center offers a limited number of partial scholarships to the Nature Center Preschool Program. Scholarship up to a maximum of 50% of the annual tuition will be awarded. Please see the Preschool Scholarship Fund under Tuition for more information.

Download Preschool Handbook 2015-16

Fund a scholarship

Please call (860) 536-2856 for more information or to schedule a tour of our facility.

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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 teaches children to love the world around them.

Our preschool aims 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 will provide children with daily opportunities to develop cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically. We also continually strive to achieve the following goals that align with the Connecticut Framework for Preschool Curricular benchmarks:

  • To 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.
  • To instill a deep sense of wonder and a desire for self-directed learning through thought -provoking, interesting and meaningful outdoor experiences.
  • To cultivate the physical and mental health of the child by providing opportunities to develop motor skills, healthy eating habits and self-help skills in a safe, secure, developmentally appropriate and challenging atmosphere.
  • To 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

8:30am – Welcome to School:

Children are greeted in the classroom or outside in the play-yard. 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.

9:30am – Circle-Time:

Children gather to discuss the theme of the week. They participate in songs, finger plays, stories, puppetry and exploration of related natural materials. Twice a month, the children will participate in a music session with a professional music teacher.

10:15am – Snack time:

(Outside whenever possible)

10:45am – Outside time:

Explore, hike, pond dip, pretend play, observe and listen, and play games.

12:00-12:30pm Pick-Up Time:

Parents may pick their children up between these times. Children will play outside or choose from our sand/water tables and arts and crafts activities.

School Closing

The Nature Center Preschool will follow the Stonington Public School for emergency delays and cancellations. In the event of inclement weather, we will close if the Stonington Public Schools close. We do not follow the Stonington Public school schedule for early closings or for teacher professional development days. The Nature Center Preschool will make independent decisions regarding these conditions. Parents will be contacted by phone as soon as possible in the event of an early dismissal.School days cancelled due to inclement weather will not be made up at the end of the year.

1 hour delay: The preschool will open at 9:30
90 min delay: The preschool will open at 10:00

Upon notification of placement in the program, a $300 non-refundable enrollment fee is required.

Mon/Wed/Fri Annual tuition – $4,050
Tue/Thu Annual tuition – $2,700
Mon-Fri Annual tuition – $6,750

Annual tuition is payable in 9 equal installments. The first installment is due at the time of enrollment. The remaining nine installments are due on the 15th of each month, from August through March. Payment in full is also accepted at any time. If a student’s tuition installment has not been paid by the end of the month in which it is due, that student may not attend school, and another child may be admitted to fill the vacancy.

Lunch Bunch, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Annual Tuition for the Lunch Bunch program ($275 for the year/day attended) must be paid in advance. Children may attend Lunch Bunch for any number of days that they are enrolled in school. Lunch Bunch is dependent on enrollment and a minimum of 8 students is required for each day. Due to enrollment requirements, refunds for Lunch Bunch cannot be guaranteed once the school year starts.


Preschool scholarships are awarded on a case-by-case basis, considering many factors including need and group composition. Applications will be accepted until September 20 of the current school year. Applications must be completed and submitted with a corresponding letter of recommendation for consideration.

To request an application please contact the Preschool Director at or (860) 536-2856. All inquiries, applications and answers will remain confidential.

Applications are accepted at any time. Applications are maintained on a wait list for the year of projected entry. Current membership is required as the application fee. Applicants who are not current members should include the $50 family membership fee with their application. Application fees are applied to a yearlong family membership to the Nature Center and are non-refundable. Applicants should be aware that spaces at the preschool are limited and are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applying to the program does not guarantee your child a spot in the program.

Children must turn 3 years of age on or before December 31st in order to be admitted to the program in September. For admission at any other time the child must have passed their 3rd 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 his/her pediatrician. In addition to tuition, each family must maintain a current Nature Center membership at the family level.

Enrollment for returning students and their siblings begins in March. Returning children have first priority for enrollment each year, followed by siblings of DPNC preschool students. New student enrollment begins in March and is be processed on a first come first served basis, starting with children on our wait list, with an effort made to create a balance of genders and ages in each class. In order to maintain continuity in the classroom new student enrollment for the current year will end in March.

Steps for Preschool Enrollment

1) Read through our policies and handbook. Be aware that your child will be going outside everyday!
2) Fill out and send in an application form.
3) We will contact you as a space becomes available.
4) Pay a non-refundable tuition installment to hold your child’s spot.
5) Send in your paperwork. Detailed paperwork for the fall is sent in the summer, all paperwork must be received at the preschool before school starts.
6) Show up at school ready for fun!

Nature Preschool application form

Please call regarding school year openings.

Preschool – 860-536-2856
Nature Center – 860-536-1216