Forest Program

“(My son) absolutely LOVES the outdoor program. We’ve noticed significant growth in his skills, especially his movement, his observations of his surroundings, and his vocabulary. He adores their stories, their crafts, their animal and plants interactions, their hikes, and the way he feels each day. The teachers are extremely attentive and communicative, everything from advice on clothes through weather changes to detailed weekly updates which drive conversations at home.”
-Forest Program Parent

Nature Immersion

Our mission is to create an outdoor classroom environment where children feel nurtured and safe, allowing them to engage in deep and meaningful learning opportunities while they play, explore, create, learn, and grow in and with the natural world.

The Benefits of Outdoor Nature-Based early Learning

Ever-growing research tells us that Outdoor Nature-Based early Learning supports whole-child development. Children are more physically active outside. They engage in more creative forms of discovery when in natural areas and engage in higher levels of cooperative play, developing the critical social-emotional skills needed to collaborate and negotiate in positive ways when conflict arises. 
Being in nature promotes creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development. The natural environment increases children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities. They are healthier and happier when offered regular opportunities for free and unstructured play outdoors, and natural settings enhance peace, self control, and self-discipline, as well as reduce stress. Learning in nature, children receive all the mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors, plus expanded and innumerable opportunities for social and emotional learning, language and literacy development, STEM learning, and engagement with the arts. In nature, the whole child grows.

Learning Values

Reggio Emilia and The Cedarsong® Way
An emergent curriculum is a hallmark of the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood Education. Children learn through cooperating with others and their teachers serve as facilitators in long-term projects that are based on their interests. Projects follow the flow of student-centered learning as well as curiosity and understandings, supporting children’s development as problem-solvers.
The Cedarsong Way® is a teaching method distinguished by the combination of an entirely outdoor classroom, interest-led flow learning, inquiry-based teaching style, and child-inspired emergent curriculum, which includes elements drawn from Frederich Froebel, Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, and the Reggio Emilia approach. The common core beliefs and principles of the Reggio Emilia approach and The Cedarsong Way® allow for a seamless connection and continuity throughout Hawken's early childhood programs

Learning in Nature

How we Learn
The developmental continuum, which is a sequence of
benchmarks denoting progression of development in the five domains of learning, has already easily and successfully been applied in the outdoor learning environment.

Social & Emotional Development
How children respond to others, initiate and maintain play, 
and develop positive relationships with peers.
Approaches to Learning
The ways in which children move toward, interact with, and
reflect upon life experiences.
Physical Development
The way in which children explore their surroundings, expressing small and large motor skill competence as well as sensory awareness.
Cognitive Domain
The acquisition, storage, and retrieval of information, 
including knowledge of physical properties, relationships, and cultural conventions.
Language & Literacy
Effective communication through listening, speaking, reading, and writing competence.

Program Overview

The Forest Program will reflect the already established routines and times of the early childhood program for 2023–2024.
  • 3 or 5 mornings (dismissal at 11:00 am)
  • Option to add on 3 or 5 lunches (dismissal at 11:45 am)
  • Option to add on 3 or 5 afternoons (dismissal at 2:45 pm)
  • After Care available until 6:00 pm
  • 5 mornings (inclusive of lunch and dismissal at noon)
  • Option to add 3 or 5 afternoons (dismissal at 2:45 pm)
  • After Care available until 6:00 pm
* Options to add-on time will be offered in mid-July and after conferences in October and February.
Practical Highlights
  • The mornings are fully immersed outdoors. The program begins at 8:30 am, but just as with current programs and all indoor-based classes, ‘doors open’ at 8:00 am. Students who attend Before Care (available beginning at 7:00 am) are dropped off indoors at the designated Forest Program homebase and then escorted to the woods when it is time for programming to begin.
  • Snacks and lunches are eaten outdoors in the respective outdoor ‘base camp,’ which has a covered deck platform and community table with benches.
  • Rest and afternoons occur in the Forest Program indoor homebase located off the Nido, allowing for time to engage with and interact with peers from indoor-based classrooms. This space is also available should weather conditions require an occasional “indoor day.”
  • A private toileting structure and hand washing station are provided.

Early Childhood Domains

The Early Childhood program at Hawken School focuses on five domains of development: Social-Emotional, Approaches to Learning, Cognitive, Language and Literacy. These domains encompass the core academic disciplines, addressing each subject area from a developmental perspective, because each child progresses at varying rates within each discipline. The specific academic skills addressed at each level are outlined on the curriculum skills grid.

Social-Emotional Domain

The Social-Emotional Domain addresses the development of social skills and emotional competence, one of the most important goals in early childhood education. Children need these skills in order to achieve academically and to maintain relationships within the community of the school and throughout life. As students progress through the continuum, they develop social skills that provide the foundation for forming lasting relationships that are essential to emotional health, which encompasses the development of personal identity, self-esteem, expression and control of emotions, management of frustration, and perseverance.

Approaches to Learning Domain

The Approaches to Learning Domain describes the ways in which children move toward, interact, and reflect upon life experiences. The skills and attitudes children bring to their early school environment have a major impact on the approach they take when “learning how to learn” and can be developed by a learning environment that nurtures initiative, engagement, persistence, curiosity, reasoning, problem solving, invention and imagination.

Language and Literacy Domain

The Language and Literacy Domain addresses the skills of listening, speaking and writing. Language skills provide the foundation for a wide range of abilities that will be used in both social and academic situations throughout life. This acquisition is a natural yet complex process, and its ultimate goal is effective communication skills and literacy; and the use of language to convey meaning through reading and writing. Competency continues to develop throughout the early school years as formal reading and writing instruction takes place in the classroom.

Cognitive Domain

The Cognitive Domain addresses the acquisition, storage, and retrieval of information. The Cognitive Domain encompasses math, science, and social studies. Key characteristics of the cognitive domain are knowledge of physical properties, knowledge about relationships and knowledge of cultural conventions; the primary cognitive processes are attention, memory, trial and error, cause and effect, reasons and problem solving, and prediction and estimation.

Physical Domain

Physical Development is a significant aspect of growth in the early childhood years and provides avenues for the way in which children explore their surroundings. This domain includes small and large motor competence as well as sensory awareness.
An independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school, toddler through grade 12

Early Childhood, Lower, and Middle Schools, 5000 Clubside Rd, Lyndhurst, OH 44124
Birchwood School of Hawken, 4400 West 140th Street, Cleveland, OH 44135 

Upper School, PO Box 8002 (12465 County Line Rd), Gates Mills, OH 44040
Mastery School of Hawken, 11025 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

Gries Center, 10823 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

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