Early Childhood Education Programs

The Nature Preschool

Irvine Nature Center’s Nature Preschool offers children ages 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 their 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 participates in MD EXCELS. We are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).


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 half-day classes 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 and Oaks: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Walnuts: Tuesday, Thursday

HALF-DAYs: 9:00am – noon

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 with Fern Club AfterCare from 2-5pm. This program runs Monday-Friday, except for the first week of school and occasional Mondays or Tuesdays for staff meetings.


The Nature Preschool is fully enrolled for the current school year.

Applications for future years are accepted on a rolling basis. Enrollment for the 2024-25 school year will begin in January with priority given to returning students and their siblings.

For 2023-24 tuition pricing, please click the “Apply Online” button below. 2024-25 Tuition will be posted by Dec 20, 2023.

Children must be 3 years old and potty-trained to attend.


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

Hosted the 2nd Thursday of THE month, October-may,  at 9:30AM


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. We are pleased to participate in the Maryland State Child Care Scholarship (CCS) Program. Please note, CCS does not cover the down payment and families receiving the Maryland State Child Care Scholarship are responsible for the remaining tuition balance, in addition to the state-identified copay. For more information and application for the Child Care Scholarship, click here.

Additionally, Irvine is proud to offer the Woodpecker Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a financial aid program from a generous group of private funders. Families may combine CCS with a TAP award and TAP awards are not contingent on receiving CCS.

Irvine also has a lending library of Adventure Apparel or outdoor play gear to lend to families to help lessen the financial costs associated with nature play in all weather.

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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