Early Childhood Education Programs

The Nature Preschool

The Nature Preschool at Irvine

Irvine Nature Center’s Nature Preschool offers children age three to five a supportive, safe learning environment that encourages discovery, experimentation and connection through play in and with nature.

Our programs take place outdoors on Irvine’s 211-acre property and in our Montessori and Reggio-inspired classrooms. Our incredible early childhood educators facilitate play-filled days in our outdoor Class Groves and on the trail that focus on child-led experiences. The Nature Preschool is designed to help your child develop cognitive and problem-solving skills, while cultivating social skills and building their confidence through nature play and exploration. While teachers plan some activities (including animal encounters, process art experiences, sensory play investigations, building provocations, stream explorations and more), children are encouraged and expected to completely change the focus of an activity based on their interest. We embrace adventurous play, teaching children how to assess risk by listening to body and inner voice. We celebrate Nature in all its beauty and weather, and our place in it.

Our program is licensed by the Maryland State Department of Education and accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.


We know every family is unique, and each has its own schedules and needs. As a result, The Nature Preschool has both full-day and part time classes, to fit your family’s needs, with Before and AfterCare available.

Full days: 9:00am – 2:00pm

5 Days, Monday through Friday (a combination of two full-day classes – Maples and Walnuts)

Maples: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Walnuts: Tuesday, Thursday

Mornings: 9:00am – noon

5 Days, Monday through Friday (a combination of two half-day classes – Hickories and Sycamores)

Hickories: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Sycamores: Tuesday, Thursday


Early Bird Care is available 8:30-9 for families that need an earlier drop-off. Full-day students may extend their day by joining us for Fern Club AfterCare that runs until 5pm, every full day the Preschool is in session, except during the first week of school and a select few Mondays or Tuesdays for staff meetings.

For tuition pricing, please click the “Apply Now” button below.

*A Note About Enrollment

Families interested in the 2023-24 school year should apply now as we accept applications on a rolling basis! Priority enrollment  for returning students begins in January. New applicants are offered contracts starting in late February. Please remember children must be 3 years old to attend and potty-trained as we are far from a toilet for large portions of our day.

If you are planning ahead, families interested in the 2024-25 or future school years can apply now!


The Nature Preschool at Irvine Nature Center believes that all children have a right to learn and play through first-hand experiences in the natural world. Friends of The Nature Preschool agree and have donated generously to create the Woodpecker Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to offset the cost of tuition and any extended day options for Baltimore families. This assistance is up to 40% of full tuition after the security deposit. Applications are accepted in-person and by post. Please contact Katie Rooney at RooneyK@ExploreNature.org or 443-738-9223 for more information.


Prospective families are invited to join us for a tour and observe a class with our Nature Preschool Director to see firsthand our child-led, play-based, almost exclusively outdoors program. Tours are good for anyone considering enrollment for school years 2023-24, 2024-25, and beyond.

Hosted the 2nd Thursday of every month at 9:30AM – Learn More

What Families Are Saying

The Nature Preschool at Irvine is absolutely amazing! The science education offered is simply unparalleled! My daughter was lucky enough to have three years of Irvine’s loving, compassionate, inquiry-filled Nature Preschool. She’s learned letters, tree classifications, and all about ecological habitats and diversity, but more importantly she’s learned about compassion, friendship, empathy, and the importance of nature in all parts of her life and soul.

Rebecca Steiner, Parent of a 2019 Nature Preschool Alum

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