What is forest kindergarten?

This is both a play-based AND a place-based educational approach. Developmental and educational experts agree that play is the ideal format for learning in early childhood. Our highly-trained Educators observe, inspire, and, when necessary, gently guide children’s play to promote developmentally-appropriate growth. In the place-based model of learning, children to return to the same beloved land again and again to feel at home, to witness the magic of seasons, and develop deep and complex play. Our emergent curriculum leads us to follow the children, sometimes quite literally, off the path to newfound discoveries! Teachers engage in reflective practices after each session and document children’s explorations for parents to read and see later. We are also inspired by cooperative principles. This means that when families enroll in our year-long program they choose the tier of tuition that fits their needs and contribute the corresponding number of volunteer hours, either behind the scenes or with children.



Athens Forest Kindergarten is an all-weather program (rain or shine, really!) We have safety procedures with regard to severe weather and we will have a safe building to retreat to as needed.

The 2019-2020 forest kindergarten program meets every Tuesday & Thursday from 9:00am-1:00pm. We meet September through April, with a scheduled Thanksgiving break, winter break and spring break. You can enroll your child for Tuesdays, Thursdays, or both, as needed for your family’s schedule.


We are proud to announce our partnership with ACC Leisure Services, which makes our 2019-2020 location possible. Starting this fall, the forest kindergarten program will make Sandy Creek Park our new home!

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AFK @ SCP starts Fall 2019!

Additional Benefits

When you enroll your child in Athens Forest Kindergarten you will also receive:

  • Snack and lunch for your child during forest kindergarten (trail mix; rice & beans)

  • Free AFK Playgroup for your child (Fridays; regularly $10; offer details in handbook)

  • Free entry to Sandy Creek Park for a year (annual Sandy Creek Park Family Pass provided by AFK)

  • Two free parent education workshops per year


Tuition We are proud to offer these newly restructured tuition categories to improve accessibility for families and begin to address issues of economic injustice in our society. Don’t be intimidated by all the options! You can first choose whether you want your child to attend on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or both days. Then decide whether you are able to contribute more time or money to our educational mission. Families may self-select which of the three tiers fits their needs.

You will notice that all three tiers of tuition require both monetary and time contributions. We believe that both means of support are vital to the healthy functioning of a program but that each family’s capacity to contribute will vary. You may also notice that when comparing the one and two day per week options at the same tier, the volunteer contribution is unchanged. When envisioning families volunteering in the forest, we believe that once per semester (Tier 1), appx. once per month (Tier 2), or appx. twice per month (Tier 3) are each attainable and valuable contributions. Please remember though that volunteer hours need not be in the forest! We are willing to work with each family to find volunteer tasks that suit them. Read more about our commitment to the cooperative model below.

Two days per week

Tier 1

$300/mo + 1 hour per month volunteering ($1200 tuition per semester + 4 hours volunteering per semester)

Tier 2

$250/mo + 1 hour per week volunteering ($1000 tuition per semester + 14 hours volunteering per semester)

Tier 3

$200/mo +2 hours per week volunteering ($800 tuition per semester + 28 hours volunteering per semester)

One day per week

Tier 1

$150/mo + 1 hour per month volunteering ($600 tuition per semester + 4 hours volunteering per semester)

Tier 2

$125/mo + 1 hour per week volunteering ($500 tuition per semester + 14 hours volunteering per semester)

Tier 3

$100/mo +2 hours per week volunteering ($400 tuition per semester + 28 hours volunteering per semester)

Pre-Payment Discount: There is a 5% discount for pre-payment of the semester by the first day of the program and a 10% discount for pre-payment of the school year by the first day of the program.

Sibling Discount: There will be no additional volunteer requirements for families enrolling a sibling at the same tuition tier.

Fees If you’re unsure whether to proceed with the application and want to discuss whether the program will be a good fit for your child please feel free to email Dr. Whitaker at director@athensforestkindergarten.org to set up a phone meeting.

Application fee = $0

The application is required of all first-time applicants and there is no fee for applying.

Enrollment and Materials fee = $125

If invited to enroll, you will complete enrollment forms and pay a fee for enrollment and materials. This secures your child’s spot in the program and covers program materials and expenses including insurance, teacher planning days, food costs for your child’s snacks and lunches, and supplies we use throughout the program.

Clothing Costs You will need some outdoor gear for your child including but not limited to rain boots, rain suit (or pants+jacket), long underwear, wool socks, a winter hat that fastens under the chin, waterproof mittens, and a rip-resistant, water-resistant winter coat.

Expectations for the cooperative


Volunteer As a co-op that strives to be inclusive of families’ different schedules, we recognize that not all families will be able to volunteer in the forest kindergarten program itself. To meet your volunteer requirements, we will offer a variety of choices, including, a one hour “lunch helper” shift, community outreach projects, administrative work for the organization. It may be helpful to know that family volunteer commitments may be split up among various family members but only a child’s legal guardian may volunteer directly with the children.

Education A fundamental principle of cooperative preschools is to provide parent education. Because we value accessibility to the wider Athens-area community, many of our parent education programs will be offered as Community Education through AFK Connects. We look forward to helping you deepen your understanding of topics such as respectful parenting, mindfulness, child development, inquiry-based learning, and more. We will offer 4-6 education opportunities throughout the year (typically a short weekend workshop) and we ask all families to choose two sessions that fit their interests.

Community-building AFK belongs to you! It’s our responsibility to create and maintain our sense of community. We encourage families to attend as many of our social events as possible, but at minimum, please plan on attending our Family Day potluck in the fall and our Mud Pie Bake Off in the spring!