willowell foundation

Wren's Nest Forest Preschool



Wren’s Nest is a nature program for preschool-age children. Students at Wren’s Nest learn by interacting with the natural world. Willowell is proud to partner with Treleven Farm in New Haven to host Wren’s Nest Mondays through Fridays, from 8:00-2:30 with an extended programming option from 2:30-4:30.


Wren’s Nest Preschool admits students and families of all socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and disability.

What parents are saying about Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool:

“If I had to design a school for my kid the Wren's Nest would be exactly what I would want for him.”

“I love the emergent style of curriculum. I don't think little ones respond well in too much rigid structure. I am thrilled with all the time spent outdoors.”

“I love everything about it. Teachers that are passionate and compassionate....meaning they take their important role seriously and are inquisitive about the mysteries of early childhood development and use creative problem solving to help kids grow.”

“I think this place is a great space for learning the things that matter the most! I love that so much is done outside. I wish I could go back in time and have had the experience my son has had here.”

"Our daughter literally bawls her eyes out when there's a snow day. She loves school, and therefore, I love it. Staff are fantastic, setting is majestic, she's learning, it's everything I could ask for."

"As a result of Wren’s Nest our child is very much at home when she is outdoors, in the woods."


8:00 AM - 2:30 PM

               Extended Programming               2:30-4:30 PM



                    82 Mitchell Drive                      Vergennes, VT

Phone numbers

Wren’s Nest:


Willowell office:



The Wren’s Nest teachers are outdoor educators whose teaching styles are flexible and creative, allowing them to adjust plans in the moment to suit the evolving needs of the students. Their curriculum depends less on rigid structure and more on independent exploration—allowing each child to engage with their natural environment through play and with the guidance of trained instructors.

Wren’s Nest is a holistic, interdisciplinary, and sensory-based approach to learning, and a companion program to Willowell’s nationally-recognized outdoor high school program, The Walden Project.  Wren’s Nest’s goal is to foster students’ independence and an initial understanding of their interconnectedness with the whole world. Children come away with a deep level of comfort and love for the land they play and learn on. Above all, Wren’s Nest creates a space for children to cultivate their natural sense of awe and wonder.

The program incorporates specific themes rooted in the changing bounty of the land and the seasons. Areas of study include wild edibles, fire building, tracking, shelter building, sensory awareness, bird language, singing, movements and yoga, garden planting and harvesting, wetland walks, drawing, journal writing, clay work, nature sculpture, natural dyeing, indoor and outdoor cooking, scavenger hunts, storytelling, special guests, dancing, singing, and an age-appropriate end of year rite of passage.

Wren's Nest runs with the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union calendar and accepts Act 166 Pre-K funding (first ten hours paid for by the state).

Wren's Nest Forest Preschool- a classroom in nature.

Wren's Nest Forest Preschool- a classroom in nature.



I. Download & complete application form (or request a hard copy mailed to you).

II. Submit $50 (non refundable) application fee.

III. Mail both to The Willowell Foundation, P.O. Box 314, Bristol VT 05443.

IV. You will hear from us ASAP once we receive your application.



Children who will be aged 3 or 4 by September 1, 2019 and who are enrolled for at least 2 full days per week are eligible to receive state preschool funding towards 10 hours/week of preschool tuition. Additional tuition costs are the responsibility of the family/guardian.

Wren’s Nest is a Pre Kindergarten partner. We have licensed teachers, our curriculum aligns with the Vermont Early Education Standards (VELS), and we record documentation for children using Teaching Strategies Gold.

These three components were established by the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) for participating partners. Children who are 3 or 4 prior to 9/1/2019 and are enrolled for at least 2 days per week will receive state preschool funding for 10 hours per week toward preschool tuition.

For information about state subsidy for income-eligible families click here: Child Care Financial Assistance.

Please email us for a full chart of additional out of pocket tuition rates for 2019-2020 school year. Email info@willowell.org for more information or call 802-453-6195










Director: Suzanne Young

Hello! I am Suzanne Young and I use she/her/hers pronouns.

I love being The Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool director and teacher exploring the web of relationships between children and the natural world and creating opportunities for deepening all of our knowledge and wonder of the cycles of nature through the seasons. I was born and grew up in Vermont and spent my childhood gathering maple sap in spring, picking raspberries in summer, feeling the crunch of leaves under my feet in fall, and entering the magical spruce forest to build snow shelters in winter. I am convinced this early time of my life along with the adults who nurtured this connection began my deep love and respect for nature. Wren’s Nest is an opportunity for me to create a similar love of nature in children and their families.

I hold a BS in Elementary Education and Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont and am finishing a Master’s in Leadership for Sustainability from the University of Vermont’s School of Natural Resources. Previously I was the chef and farm to school educator at Mary Johnson Children's Center in Middlebury, Vermont where I blended my love of the outdoors and seasonal and local food into nourishing meals for young children and teachers. In other lives I lived and taught as an environmental educator in Maine and had an organic farm in Orwell, VT.  I now live in Bomoseen, VT.

I am passionate about engaging and immersing young children and all people in the natural world, exploring new food choices, practicing cooking, finding joy in digging in the dirt, and tasting garden grown foods. I seek to live in balance with my work and my close family life with two teenage boys and my active senior parents; spending time together in the woods, waters, gardens, and going on adventures to new places.


To find out more about becoming an AmeriCorps service member at Willowell    click here

To find out more about becoming an AmeriCorps service member at Willowell click here

Teacher: Michelle Black

My name is Michelle Black, and I’m a teacher, mother, and grandmother! In my adult life, I’ve lived from coast to coast and in Europe. Landing in Vermont a few years ago is the closest I’ve been to my upstate New York birthplace in a very long time, and has replenished me with a deep, relaxing feeling of “coming home.”

 I thank my parents and six older siblings for allowing me to be a free-range child. I also had the amazing opportunity to raise my three children that way on farms and at the seashore. I believe in offering children the freedom to explore real-life experiences like diverting rainwater streams to save bugs and worms, replacing a broken wagon wheel with a tree slice, or simply being aware of forest sounds and smells. These activities not only awaken our brains with problem-solving puzzles, but instill an early sense of empathy and respect for living creatures and the earth itself.

 I hold a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s in elementary education, and I’ve just completed a new master’s in special education. I seem to thrive on constant learning, and fortunately, working with young children offers the magic of seeing the world again for the first time, and learning with them every day.

 My work has included early intervention for children from birth to 3-years old, preschool and elementary teaching, parent education, and nearly everything that overlaps these areas. I’ve also been involved with Shelburne Farms’ educator trainings and the Addison County Farm to School (Early Education) program, and I’m excited about everything in nature.

 In my spare time you’ll find me trudging through the forest on snowshoes in the winter, at the community garden in the summer, or working with my husband on the 1963 sailboat we’re continuously refurbishing.



Teacher: VYDC State Americorps Member

Want to join our team? We are currently recruiting for this position. Looking to spend a year exploring the woods with 3-5 year olds? Join AmeriCorps and give back to your community.

Click here for the full job description.