The Mission of Little Earthlings Forest School is to provide an emotional and physically responsible, nature based learning environment for children and parents alike, where each persons journey is welcomed, where respect for each persons ideas are valued, where opportunities to make connections with the Earth and with each other are provided, where conflict and disagreement are understood to be a natural process of growth, where clarity, discovery of self, community and communication are supported, and where each persons trail is followed with curiosity, wonder and anticipation on our ways to discover how we learn how to learn.
Little Earthlings primary emphasis is is to hold a safe space for preschool aged children to develop a strong self esteem, self identity and the ability to foster and maintain strong relationships with each other and with adults, as the best preparation for Kindergarten, grade school and all of life.
Little Earthlings is an outdoor program taking place in San Francisco’s magnificent Golden Gate Park. The program is for children aged 3 to 5 years. As we explore and connect with each other, ourselves, and nature, we develop a deep appreciation and connection with the Earth.
Children are natural born scientists, and the natural world is the perfect place for them to align with who they are and feed the process of inquiry, discovery, wonder, exploration, expansion, reflection, and all that contributes toward “learning how to learn.” Creativity, critical thinking skills, problem solving, social-emotional development, self advocacy, self esteem, relationship building, and discovering how we work together and independently, unfold in unique ways between children out of doors.
From birth to 5 years old, 90 percent of your child’s brain development occurs at a staggering rate, gathering momentum all along the way. Every sensory, emotional, cognitive, physical, social, inner and outer experience contributes to this process . Long before most children step foot into a classroom, neurons are making connections and building networks, cognition is exploding, language is developing, and the foundations are being laid for a lifetime of learning. Simultaneously, the foundational framework for how we think about ourselves and form and maintain relationships for the rest of our lives is formed.
What has been termed, social emotional development, has been identified as the primary indicator for personal satisfaction and achievement of ones goals and aspirations in life, not IQ. Once children gain mastery over these aspects of themselves, the good work of learning how to learn, and developing all aspects of their bodies and minds in order to be successful in school and life, aligns in joyous way.
Little Earthlings will work on self regulation and impulse control, developing coping mechanisms and identifying tools to use in the life long practice of familiarizing themselves with how they operate as individuals. In short, they will begin the journey of learning how they work, of what makes them who they are, and how to operate this wonderful mechanism we experience life in.
For the past 11 years I have worked side by side with children, parents, teachers, professors, and mentors in cooperative preschool settings, colleges, and universities, supporting and demystifying the process of becoming a family, (for both the parents and the children.) The first 5 years of life are the most important for child development, and can be the most difficult for parents. Little Earthlings hopes to continue working directly with the parents and the children, in the field, participating and supporting them in order to foster a richer deeper connection for your families.
- If you would like to enroll in Little Earthlings Forest School, or are interested in finding out more,
- Please familiarize yourself with the material on our website.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your child, name, date of birth, and what has drawn you to our program, as well as any information about previous programs your child has participated in.
- Schedule a voice call with the director at email@example.com. at which time a tour will be arranged.
- Submit an Enrollment Application. If you would like to enroll, please submit an application at https://www.wonderschool.com/littleearthlingsforestschool/apply – Please note that we require a call or tour for all prospective families. Do not submit an application if you have not completed a call or tour.
After reviewing your application, we’ll send an enrollment invitation. Upon accepting your invitation, you’ll pay your deposit (usually equal to one month’s tuition), fill out enrollment documents and review our Parent Handbook.
Director/Teacher David Calabrese will be available to meet in Golden Gate park between 9:30am and 11:00am by appointment, from August 14th to August 18th.
The initial location will be Doughboy Meadow, 591 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, on the north side of JFK Drive, west of the intersection with Stow Lake Drive. There is no sign marking Doughboy Meadow, but the statue is visible down the grassy hill from the street.
- Daily programs will be structured with,
- A beginning point, (Hoover Redwood Grove) where we will have opening circle.
- Exploration of the site followed by snack time.
- A traveling section where we will hike and explore.
- A bathroom visitation if needed.
- And a playground visit, (closing circle and pick up.) Pick up location will be disclosed every morning or texted if changed.
Little Earthlings will be outside in all weather. Golden Gate Park can change rapidly from warm and sunny to cold and foggy. Dressing properly, in layers, with appropriate foot gear and clothing is essential for a safe rewarding learning experience.
I choose the name Little Earthlings to remind us that children are new to this planet. Little Earthlings is a child-led. We are here to help them, to guide them, to assist their process of discovering who they are, where they are going, and what they are developing into. It is such an honor to be part of this unfolding and developing process, to witness growth and learning right before ones eyes. The brain is organizing, making connections, the body is developing, the senses are providing stimuli and feedback, the emotions are guiding and they are all working together, figuring out how to play with each other, to critically think, to problem solve, in order to get their needs met, which ultimately means, in order to learn, which inevitably leads to being happy :)
Little Earthlings are quite literally learning what it means to live life on earth, what it means to become an adult human being. They are in a constant state of devouring information, assimilating this into an understanding of reality which in turn informs who they are. We as teachers, parents and the adults in their lives are constantly modeling for them what it means to be a human being, what living on earth is like. As such, I believe it is our responsibility to constantly reflect upon who we are as educators and parents, to investigate our own processes and to vigilantly carry the awareness that “we are constantly modeling for our children.”
The two main questions that create distinctions between schools, philosophies, curriculums and pedagogies are,
- “What should children learn?”
- “What should teachers teach?”
As you reflect back to your own childhood, and the world you developed in, consider today,
with all its technology and information, its rapid growth and changing societal dynamics from interpersonal relationships to screens,
and continue to imagine what 2036 might look like, you realize that to answer these basic questions is extremely difficult.
So what do children need to learn in the moment and beyond? My mission has always been to help parents help their children recognize the unique individuals they are, so that no matter what the world may become, they know who they are, what they excel at, what their challenges might be, and how to plug into whatever comes.
The work of children is to play!Through play, children learn how to learn, during these critical foundational 5 years.
The occupation teachers benefit most from in order to become better teachers, is the continual practice of discovering who they are as educators through reflection, engagement with peers, and the active participation in their own process of growth, expansion, discovery and learning. In this way, the teacher, parent or adult embody a physical example from which the children learn. They model not only what it means to be a human being, but how human beings conduct themselves.
The environment is the third teacher. It provides the child with the materials which draw them in, provoke their curiosity and imagination, and lead them towards assembling deeper understanding of the world and themselves. Our program is conducted entirely outdoors. The simplest distinction between Forest School and Formal School is that the later is created by men and women, and the former by Creation itself. Both have wonderful aspects and contributions toward the development and education of young children. Our materials will be of the natural world. Golden Gate Park will be our laboratory. The children will experience moments of solitude and assemble observations about society. In addition we have the added benefit of the wonderful cultural, scientific, and artistic institutions which can become incorporated into our curriculum as well.
David Anthony Calabrese is the Director/Teacher of Little Earthlings Forest School. David was born in Wallingford, CT and grew up with his his mother and father, two siblings and six first cousins, aunt and uncle, friends and extended family, and his dog Fripp. Surrounded by expansive woodlands and farms, he spent every hour he could in the woods, winter, spring, summer and fall. The changing seasons of New England experienced from within the woods are simply magical to a young child, and remain vividly poignant to this day. David’s earliest aspirations were to become an artist. He holds a BFA from Manhattanville College in Purchase New York where he received as a gift, Ghedi the cat, who remained his companion for 19 years. During undergraduate work he studied painting for a semester abroad in Firenze Italy. After graduation, David spent some years in Greenwich CT, Oakland, CA, Plymouth VT, and New York City. Moving to San Francisco, he married, and had a boy. Moving back to New York City,David co-founded the parents group, “Preschool on the Planet,” (which exists to this day) in Bruce’s Garden within Isham Park in the norther neighborhood of Manhattan where they lived, Inwood. They then had a girl, and a year later, returned to San Francisco. David’s family attended Rocky Mountain Participation Nursery School, where his life altered course forever, beginning an arc of experience, moving from working parent, to parent education chair, to child development student, to Lead teacher, to MA of ECE candidate at SFSU, to Coop Director, and presently, Director/Teacher of Little Earthlings Forest School. While at Rocky Mountain he returned to City College of San Francisco, to acquire his Site Supervisor certification. At that time, his family agreed to restructure and separate. This experience afforded him enormous growth, empathy and compassion for others with similar experiences as well as insights into the reality of many of San Francisco parents, whether divorced, separated, or simply left to the enormous, endless, test of endurance of parenting alone. These insights have greatly contributed to his practice as an ECE teacher and director and as a person. He later went on to work as Lead teacher in the PM program, and became Director at Playmates Cooperative preschool. He enrolled in San Francisco State University to obtain his MA in Early Childhood Education, and will have completed his culminating experience in fall of 2017.
David has also launched a Parenting Consulting Service which is presently in development.
Twice a year, on Memorial day and Labor day weekends, David co-directs the children’s program at the Strawberry Music Festival.
When David isn’t teaching, he’s driving his children to Creative Arts Charter School and Mission High, buying groceries and cooking or listening to music. He’s finishing his MA in ECE at SFSU. He plays electric and acoustic bass and guitar in a band, and sometimes sings with a bunch of amazing individuals. David also creates shirt and fabric designs, journals, meditates, hikes, camps, listens and watches music biographies and documentaries, and enjoys woodworking, (sculpting and furniture design), which he did for 35 years before he became an educator.
“David has made such a huge impact on us and I can genuinely say he has made me a better parent. I am so grateful. I never would have imagined our first preschool experience could exceed our expectations in the way it has and this is in huge part to David.”
- Anna, Zac, & Cam
“I can’t even find enough words to express what David has done for our family. Seeing him perform as a teacher in our cooperative preschool was very inspiring and eye opening for me. He always took time to individually connect with each child and get to know them well. He gave them tools to voice their feelings even when they seemed very little to be able to and helped them find ways to stand up for themselves in front of others. I’ve seen kids bite, scream and hit during their first days of preschool and after a few weeks of David shadowing them and working with them totally transform into calm, peaceful and happy kids because their feelings were heard, their rights were respected and they were given the space to be the way they are. But I would even dare to say that the ones benefiting more from David were the parents. David’s knowledge of child social and cognitive development is so deep that parents would constantly go to him to ask him questions, even those parents attending different programs! He always had words of encouragement and wise advice. His talks on Parent Educational nights were so good and useful that I even attended the same talk more than once just to hear again all he had to say. My family wouldn’t be the same today without David’s help. He helped us understand our daughters and see what they needed from us as parents. I will be forever grateful for the big blessing of having him in our lives for 3 years. Our family is in a happier place because of him. Thank you David!”
- Victor, Lidia, Lucia and Keila
“We met Teacher David when my daughter joined a local Co-op Preschool in January of 2015. As new parents, David quickly became a go-to resource to my wife and I when we had questions about our 2.5 year-old, and her transition to this new environment. David always took the time to listen to our questions, and would help us through whatever it was that we were struggling with at the time. Yet, it wasn’t until about a year later that I realized David was doing more than answering questions, he was actually helping us become better parents. In addition to being a great educator to parents and children, David also has an innate ability to observe and diffuse conflicts between children, or help particular children with issues that cause them frustration. He squats down, listens, and patiently helps children work out their issues in a safe and supportive environment. After watching him do this time and time again, I have begun to call him the “kid-whisperer,” because there is something intangible inside of David that allows him to communicate and understand our children at a level that is not easy to obtain.”
“David Calabrese is a mentor on many levels for our family; he was a head instructor at my daughter’s preschool. Being a first time parent who practices attachment parenting, we experienced transition issues with our daughter as she learned to be more independent. The first reaction I had as a mother was that of shame or concern with my daughter’s constant crying and separation anxiety. David quickly helped us put her into a spectrum of emotional and physical development.
He made us understand she was “slow to warm” to social situations and helped us to realize that we are all individuals and have varying levels of social simulation that we find comfortable. Our daughter’s transition was a long and often challenging one. David was her anchor and more importantly a source of reassurance that our child was right where she needed to be in terms of her development. He provided peer reviewed data and articles that helped us to better understand her and her peers. He provided strategies to help her deal with her anxiety. He also was warm and loving, which any child needs in their early age.
I definitely had doubts about my investment in play based and attachment style parenting. But David’s continual support and my daughter’s subsequent years in school have helped me to see that she has become a strong, independent and empathetic person because of our choices. She is everything I would want in my child as they grow and I truly believe that David helped set that path. You can tell a lot about the impact people have on your children when they recall or request their presence years later. My daughter (age 6) is still asking for Teacher David to be invited to her birthday party each year. Her first and most loving teacher was David and he will be a cherished part of her pathway to adulthood. We can’t recommend him more for the support and guidance new parents need. It takes a village to raise a child, and I truly an honored to count David among our tribe!”
“I was in my daughter’s Kindergarten class and there was this girl who was having a hard time saying bye to her dad (yes, 5-6 years old still have separation anxiety sometimes). She was crying so much. Her dad had to leave and after he did the cry was even worse. She was standing there so emotionally broken and at the same time embarrassed, because at this age they are aware of that. The teacher had to stop the class to go and talk to her, but of course the time was limited because there were 21 more kids staring and waiting for the class to continue, getting more and more fidgety. The teacher kept saying to the girl: “you’re ok, you’re ok, shhhh, shhh, you’re ok” giving her a half-hug while also checking on the rest of the kids. I was staring at the scene and it made me so sad. I just wanted to go to the girl and offer her a proper hug, tell her that I knew she was not OK, even ask her if she wanted to write a letter to her dad, basically give her the time she needed, the time she deserved. But unfortunately, the reality is that once in elementary school these things are no longer priorities, can no longer be. And don’t get me wrong, I love our elementary school, I really like our teacher. Although I think she could have done better in this situation I know she meant well but she knew she could not spend much time dealing with that, she had to get back to the rest of the group and keep going. All this situation made me think how immensely grateful I am for our school. Yesterday there was a tour during the PM program and our membership chair, as always, did so well, was so encouraging and presented such good points on why we do what we do. Then David joined the group and parents were asking about academics and how our school would prepare their kids for Kindergarten. I was captivated listening to him explaining how important it is to mainly focus on social-personal interactions and body development and the importance of working on those; taking the time to help kids deal with their feelings, their emotions and communication skills. And after what I experienced today I only have words of gratitude towards our school, the staff, the families and especially David, who has taught us so much during these 3 years we’ve been part of this community. I am grateful that my daughters’ first experiences socializing and dealing with insecurities and feelings like frustration and sadness happened at our school, where they were heard, where their feelings were acknowledged and where they were given the time they needed. And trust me, that prepares them for Kindergarten. My oldest daughter went from the PM program to Kindergarten and had no problem learning the academics, she is reading and writing at a 1st grade level. But what is more important to me, she can communicate with her friends and teachers and she understands her feelings. Just today I heard her say: “I’m not playing with you anymore because I can’t be with people who hurt my feelings like that” All I have to say is *thank you*, David!”
We are a proud member of the Wonderschool network.
Wonderschool is a group of early childhood programs that combine the quality standards of the best child care centers with the warmth of an in-home program in your neighborhood.