The Magic of Forest Preschool


The first nature-based outdoor preschool near Louisville, located in the beautiful woodlands of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve.

Imagine some of your earliest memories of play. Were you inside or outside? Chances are that you were outside, learning through exploratory play. Now, imagine a preschool that provides lifechanging experiences in a classroom that has no walls. Rather than keep children cooped up inside, surrounded by colorful plastic toys and electronics, forest preschools take learning outside where children can follow their curiosities, explore, engage, learn, and build resilience that will serve them in primary school and well beyond. 

Thrive Forest School is Louisville’s most successful nature-based preschool, nestled in the beautiful woodlands of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve. There, under the trees and amongst the chirping of chickadees, children 3-to-6 years of age attend preschool outside in a forest classroom year-round. Sun, rain, snow… it’s all an opportunity to build self-confidence, creativity, resilience, and emotional regulation in small classes under the guidance of experienced preschool teachers.

A typical day at Thrive will see the class of 12 students and two teachers geared up in waterproof clothing as they hike to their forest classroom, which is nestled alongside a creek and outfitted like a preschool classroom. Once children hang their backpacks on hooks fastened to a cedar log, they engage in exploratory play and learning with teachers acting as co-discoverers. Some take on building projects, others test the buoyancy of objects in the stream, and others create music using sticks, logs, rocks, and pine cones. Mid-way through the day the class comes together as they sit in a circle, sometimes around a crackling campfire, to share a snack and listen to a story. The day ends with group clean-up, songs, and a hike back to civilization, tired and inspired.

Studies show that this type of program helps to foster a love of learning, builds self-confidence, and encourages the development of creative problem-solving skills. This type of learning contributes to young children’s academic readiness, so no matter what schooling path they take, your child will be ready to succeed.

As one Thrive parent shared, “My son now knows that every day, no matter the weather, is a great time to explore. He is also less reliant on toys and objects to entertain him. He is much more confident of his own abilities and much more willing to persevere when he is having trouble doing something.” Another parent added, “This program and its staff accepted and EMBRACED my child for exactly who she is. They loved and nurtured all of the amazing little nuances that make her special. And for that, I am forever grateful.” 

Thrive Forest School has been featured on the front page of the Courier-Journal, in Louisville Magazine, and on every local news station. 

Visit to learn more about their groundbreaking program, now entering its 5th year. To complete a non-binding application, CLICK HERE. To learn more, or schedule a tour of the forest classroom, contact You can also get a glimpse into the magic of forest school by following their forest adventures on Facebook or Instagram.

Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve also hosts wonderful family-friendly events throughout the year. Keep tabs on our calendar for information!

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