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By Robin Jovanovich

A lot of pilot programs never see the light of day, but not so the exceptional one launched by Rye Nature Center this fall. Lucky are the ten 3- to 5-year-olds who made the cut and are knee-deep in leaves and outdoor adventure five mornings a week at Forest Preschool.

On a recent morning, we gathered in the Nest Playground before setting off on a walk in the woods in search of trees to identify, by their leaves and bark, and logs to roll over and look under for millipedes, slugs, and other crawly creatures.

In the Tree House, we sat, mostly cross-legged, and sounded out the calls of nature. The theme was “H” words, and we did our best to act like horses that were pursued and stung by hornets, but then healed happily. We made it all the way to “I” words and did a good job itching.

On our way to gardening duty, we paused in the Cubby Room long enough to check on the goldfish.

With the arrival of fall — at last — Taro Ietaka, Director of Conservation, really needed some extra hands in the Garden. That day’s assignment was two-fold: “to bring in plants to make the classroom even more beautiful, and to plant ones that will provide a buffet table for birds and bugs” — winterberry, holly, switch grass, blue joint grass, among them.

Every young gardener was given gloves, watering cans, and trowels and wasted no time before digging in.

It took close to a year to create this richly layered program. Under the clear-eyed guidance and steady hands of Allison Bedosky (Education Director) and Rachael Pothula (Early Childhood Education Specialist), preschoolers are exploring every corner of nature’s playground and growing more comfortable with its rhythms and rhymes.

The Nature Center is holding a Forest Preschool Open House Saturday, November 4 at 10.

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