Play is the work of childhood.
— Jean Piaget

Philosophy

Northeast LA Forest School is the first program of its kind in Northeast LA. Our program is an active, experiential learning model where we provide real-life experiences for young learners starting at age 2. Our program is inspired by the European model of the Forest Kindergarten or waldkindergartens, set in the urban park landscapes of East Los Angeles. Our curriculum is emergent, based on the expanding curiosities of our students. Our days are centered around hikes and explorations and are rich with opportunities for social-emotional development. Our teachers model social behaviors, guide children through conflict, and help children balance their risk assessments. As teachers we are present as observers and help remove hazards that children cannot handle.

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Griffith Park

Rowing our boat on the high seas.

Why attend a forest school? Will my child be prepared for kindergarten?

Forest Schools build the foundation for academic success. Children who are given the chance to try, fail, and try again learn resilience, learn how to take on initiative, and become more inventive. Problem solving skills, social competence, and the openness to learn new things come from the freedom of outdoor play. The development of these executive functions leads the way to higher learning. Transitions, participation, empathy, and how to engage in a group learning setting are all necessary skills for kindergarten and skills we practice daily at Northeast LA Forest School. Yes, your child will be more than prepared for kindergarten!

Elysian Park.

Elysian Park.

Leaders and learners.

The children of Northeast LA Forest School range in ages. This mixed-age setting allows for the natural development of learners and leaders. This peer leadership model is beneficial for both leader and learner and has been found to foster motivation, self-esteem, achievement, and community. As children grow, they can see themselves becoming leaders but they continue to have empathy for those who are where they used to be. When we break up into smaller, age-based groups during inquiries, our teachers are ready with the differentiation skills needed to engage different ages at different stages.

Field journals, bug observations, and expression of scientific findings through clay.

Field journals, bug observations, and expression of scientific findings through clay.

Find out more about our everyday adventures on our social media sites:

Our Facebook page

Our Instagram page


Events

 Our 2019-2020 Open Houses:

TBD

More information coming soon!


Admissions

Interested in joining our community? Here's how:

  1. Explore the Northeast LA Forest School website.

  2. Come for a Tour or Open House, chat with our Director Becca Hackett-Levy and see if our school is a fit for your family.

  3. Apply here!


Location

Our office is located in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles.

Other Locations:

Griffith Park: Spring Canyon - A beautiful and shaded area nestled amongst Canyon Oaks - Late spring through summer.

Elysian Park: Section 6 - A story book meeting place full of sculptures created from downed trees - Fall and Winter

Specific drop-off/pick up spots provided upon request for the safety and privacy of our enrolled families.

Each park is chosen based on a few key criteria:

  • Bathrooms

  • Access to flora and fauna

  • Access to potable water

  • Safe drop off/pick up points

  • Plenty of parking for parents

  • Proximity to Northeast LA

  • Access to shade and places to rest

 


 

About Our Program

At Northeast LA Forest School we seek to reverse the "indoorification of childhood" by providing real life, inquiry-based explorations in nature. Children will be able to indulge their curiosity, let it guide their explorations, and build their scientific thinking through trial-and-error style play. Early literacy and math skills can be seen throughout our meaningful play. We go deeper into local parks to find trees for climbing, mud pits, and ponds. Whenever possible we stop our hikes to explore off the beaten path. Our group play requires empathy, listening skills, and different forms of conflict resolution thus building social-emotional skills. Through play, our children begin to discover their sense of self and others. Our group circle times are a time for reflection and conversation about our daily adventures. In addition to explorations, our daily structure allows for snacks and lunch, songs, and diving into a few good books.

Our school is 100% outside. Unless a safety warning has been issued by a government organization (smog days, lightning, cancellations issued by LAUSD) we will be out and about. Using tarp structures to avoid rain, shade to keep cool, and the right kinds of clothes to stay comfortable, we will continue to explore in all kinds of weather. Children in our program will get very dirty, they will possibly scrape their knees or rip some clothes, but that is what it means to be a kid.

Program Logistics:

  • Monday-Friday 9a-1p

  • We offer 2,3, or 5 days a week

  • Ages 2-6

  • Diapers are welcome

  • 4:1 student to teacher ratio

  • We provide 1 organic, fresh snack a day

  • For tuition information please email Nelaforestschool@gmail.com

Daily Flow:

9:00am Drop Off : a time and space for hugs and see you laters, followed by the children to setting up their space and enjoying works from the previous day.

9:50 Morning meeting: a set of welcome songs followed by a group conversation on many topics often including pertinent curriculum information, social-emotional stories, safety observations, and more!

10:05 Snack & Story-Telling: A chance to sit together, enjoy nature, and plan our next adventure! Snack is always organic.

10:30am Scientific investigations, skills or art lessons, and/or small group projects. We often end our mornings with a hike or walk to spaces outside of Base Camp.

12:00pm Picnic Lunch: a time to rest, practice social emotional skills, notice our local flora and fauna, and fuel up!

12:45pm Closing Reflection about our day & Goodbye Song: Children then stay on the library blanket and wait for their grown ups while writing in journals, playing with alphabet and number blocks, or reading a book.

12:55pm Dismissal : Reuniting with your grown up!



Yearly Enrollment

  • Our school year runs September through June with two summer camps (see below). We take the month of July off. Find our current school calendar here.

  • We still have a few spots left for Fall of 2019-2020 for the Chickadees class. Sparrows are full but please contact us about our waiting list!

  • Is your child not old enough to start in September? Join our waiting list. If a space opens after their 2nd birthday we will call you!

  • Taking application for 2020-2021

 

Summer Camp at Northeast LA Forest School

Exploring new ways to interact with nature.

Looking at foundational elements of the world around us. Starting with the earth we walk, to the plants we enjoy, we take a closer look at what it means to be a part of Griffith Park.

Location: Griffith Park’s Spring Canyon.

Camp Coordinator: Michael Fontansi.

Session 1: June 10th- 28th- Full

Session 2: Aug 12- 30th- Full

Camp is full, but feel free to contact us about our waiting list.

Monday-Friday, 9a-1p

Ages 3-6

Ages 2.5+ allowed if your child has previous school experience

Camp Tuition:

$ 495 for 2 days a week, $660 for 3 days a week, $900 for 5 days a week.

Enrollment- We will accept applications for camp starting January 20th. We will close applications once the programs are full. You must pay your tuition in full to be considered enrolled in camp.

Questions, please do not hesitate to email us at Nelaforestschool@gmail.com 

A swing: you need the right stick, the right rope, the perfect spot and the persistence to make it happen. We give children the space, time, and tools they need!

A swing: you need the right stick, the right rope, the perfect spot and the persistence to make it happen. We give children the space, time, and tools they need!

What our community says:

“This is an amazing school! We couldn’t have asked for more. Our daughter has been thriving in this environment from the very beginning. What is there not to like? The kids are outdoors all morning (9am to 1pm). The groups are small (no more than 12 students). The teachers are great. Director Becca and her core team Michael and Noël are wonderful people – calm, easy-going, and patient. They are very well trained, have lots of experience with early childhood education and their background in the performing arts shows in their exceptionally creative energy. While they certainly know how to get the children’s attention and draw them into the forest world, they also – just like the original concept of Waldkindergarten – know when to step back, listen in on the kids carefully and follow their lead. The kids determine what will be on the agenda; they learn to take decisions and make their own free choices. If you want to establish a strong sense of agency in your kid, this is the place!

Regarding the questions and worries of the parent community, Becca and her team are very helpful; our questions have always been answered immediately and concerns never diminished. The communication is honest and detailed which shows me that they have a close eye on the kids, observing their individual growth and development. 

The beautiful scenery of Griffith and Elysian Park is their playground. Both parks have their own character and give the kids plenty of opportunity to get in touch with nature. While the school’s regular spot in Griffith Park near the Old Zoo is a magical, hidden gem, tucked away close to the canyon, Elysian Park’s basecamp (close to the Grace E. Simons Lodge) boosts with lots of bush caves, hiking paths, and old platforms and monuments. 

As there are no constructed limits, the kids learn to respect the invisible walls of their basecamp. They eat, drink, play, and rest under beautiful California native trees. A library, that is accessible at all times, is set up with a blanket in a quiet corner. After circle time, in which they welcome the park and listen to the story of the day, they are free to conquer their forest. 

The lack of pre-manufactured toys and the freedom to explore the environment on their own playful terms, imagination and creativity play an important role in this school; the tiniest snippet can become the world! The dried flowers become confetti. The fallen tree becomes a train or a kitchen or a workbench. The rocks turn into ice cream stores, sticks into fishing rods, stones into little animals, and the real animals into friends. They study the behavior of beetles and learn how to “scare” away the coyotes. They climb on rocks, jump from stone to stone, slide down natural slides. Our daughter’s coordination has improved so much! The kids build their babies, cars, and teddy bears with found objects and swing on wooden swings or ropes that hang from trees around the camp. They go on hikes to explore the surrounding and get messy together with water, mud and sand. It’s raw, adventurous and resourceful play!

Giving our daughter the opportunity to learn about her very own capabilities with and in a natural environment is a dream come true for our idea of a healthy childhood. Nature is a “secret teacher” to her, and its treasures and challenges form the basis for her mental and physical development. Also, being outdoors means less chances of getting sick. Our daughter has been going to this school for more than seven months and she hasn't caught a single thing (which is not only great for her but also for us!)  

One of the most beautiful things I was able to witness is the social interaction between the children and their competence for empathy. Yes, they also quarrel and fight, but those kiddos really learn how to care for each other. They experience firsthand the importance of helping one another as it is a group effort to build the rain/sun shelters, climb up rocks in a row, identify the beetles’ scientific name, and find and put back on that shoe of the youngest member that was lost somewhere on the way. Being amongst children of different ages (2-6) in a “wild” space has taught our daughter to respect everyone’s personal space, yet, show genuine interest and empathy in her friends’ activities and emotions. It made me wanting to stay and become friends with all of them, too.” -S.K.

"Northeast L.A. Forest School has been such a blessing for our family. Our daughter (3.5) has been there almost a year, and absolutely loves it. From the very first day forward, she never had a hard time at drop off, and has always been eager to go to school. She is full of facts about the flora and fauna of the LA parks, and has grown more conscious of and affectionate toward all her 'forest friends'. The entire program is outdoors, which has really allowed our daughter to move and positively release all that infamous energy parents of toddlers are both somewhat frightened and envious of. She is clearly more focused and calm when she comes home from school. She has also learned how to spell her name, color basics, shape logic, and more. The teachers and director, Becca Levy-Hackett, have a sincere vested interest in the children, and we are so grateful for them. I feel so confident leaving my daughter with them; it's like family. I know they are going to take great care of her while she's there. They are also a program with amazing communication. Each week, we receive a newsletter with photos and stories of what our children did the previous week. Any incidents at school are discussed directly with parents as soon as possible. Lastly, we love the school's philosophy of creating a child-led learning environment where the little ones are free to be themselves, and are encouraged to naturally explore their capabilities and the space around them." - H.R.

"My daughter (3.5) has been attending the NE LA Forest School for 6 months and we all absolutely love it. This school is great for first time separators because it's so much fun. The teachers are warm and friendly and passionate about sharing all aspects of nature - insects, birds, trees, rocks, dirt, sand, mud, etc. - as well as encouraging imaginative play. I love that this program teaches kids to be content in any weather conditions - they have so much fun when it's raining! The teachers have also been very helpful with potty training. My daughter is energized and happy at the end of school and I trust that she has been well cared for, safe and inspired during her 4 hours there. I was thrilled to find this program after checking out lots of other preschool options. It has been wonderful to join this community of parents too. Becca's vision and positive energy have made this school a joy to be a part of." - T.W.

"Becca is an amazing teacher! She has created a program for young children that safely connects them with nature and promotes their physical, social emotional, and intellectual health." - K.K.

"It doesn't get much better than Becca. Seriously, I'm not sure we will ever find a teacher as wonderful as she was. Two years ago when our son started attending Kings Bay North Williamsburg (Brooklyn) school, we were lucky enough to leave him every day with the most loving, nurturing, and open-minded person. Becca helped us get through separation anxiety, texting us photos on the harder days to show us that he was doing great. Her patience never waned and her positive attitude always felt genuine. She challenged all the kids while nurturing their individual talents. She also knew how to connect and communicate properly with the parents, which is actually a big deal. I have no doubt that both you and your kid will love her." - E.B.

"Becca Hackett-Levy is an outstanding early childhood educator. Our family adores her! She worked with our son during his first year of preschool. Becca was his first teacher and he formed a very special bond with her. He trusted her completely. She made separation process easy and comfortable for both us and our son. Her knowledge of curriculum-related and child development matters is remarkable. Becca's professional knowledge and ability to connect with every child makes her one of the strongest early childhood education experts I've come across during my 20 year career as an educator, and we were so impressed with her as parents! She was the first one to notice (even before our pediatrician) that our son had breathing difficulties when he overexerted himself on the playground. Becca encouraged our son's endless curiosity in the classroom and outside the school. She made sure he was always comfortable, physically and emotionally. She worked with us to ensure open, constructive, and productive communication between school, us --the parents-- and our child. We will always remember Becca as one of the most impressive educators we have ever met!"- I.F.