Children and Family Programs

Little Trees Nature-Based Early Learning Program

Play, explore, discover, and learn in our nine-month nature-based early-childhood program.

Content Detail

Nature-based Early Learning Program (3–5 years old)

Children will discover the wonder and beauty found within the Arboretum’s 1,700 acres as they play, learn, and grow in our nine-month, nature-based early-childhood program. Exploring nature throughout the changing seasons provides the perfect landscape for developing lifelong skills and laying a foundation for a love of learning.

The mission of Little Trees is to help young children develop a deep and meaningful relationship with nature through outdoor play and child-directed discovery. Our curriculum encourages discovery and experimentation while cultivating kindness and empathy, building a growth mindset, and sprouting student scientists. The curriculum is seasonally-based and interest-driven. What the children notice taking place in the world around them is usually what stokes their curiosity. Our daily explorations and prompts complement what is occurring within their environment and allow room for emergent areas of study.

Children have the ability to shape the program by communicating their interests and passions as they develop a kinship with nature. This allows for organically created unique experiences each year—deeply resonant experiences born from the children’s natural curiosity. We investigate topic interests by taking nature walks, studying natural phenomena, and engaging in activities that build physical, social-emotional, and cognitive skills.

Enrollment for the 2022-23 preschool season is now open. Contact Meg Gessler at to register or for more information on the program.

Roots Class (3-yr-olds): Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Saplings Class (4-yr-olds): Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Trees Class (mixed ages 4- and 5-yr-olds): Mondays through Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Morton Arboretum provides an unparalleled location for nature-based learning. Children will discover the wonder and beauty found within the Arboretum’s 1,700 acres. Situated on the rolling Valparaiso moraine and bisected by the East Branch of the DuPage River, the Arboretum is home to forests, creeks, savannahs, prairies, and lakes, all of which provide a rich natural environment for exploration and learning. Experienced instructors trained in nature-based education will share their enthusiasm for the natural world with the children on their daily explorations through the varied environments.

During outdoor exploration, children frequently have the opportunity to observe native wildlife, including white-tailed deer, red-eared sliders, sunfish, bullfrogs, red-tailed hawks, monarch butterflies, and hundreds more. Our quaint classroom, tucked inside the historic Thornhill Education Center, will serve as our home base and provide space for learning stations, dramatic play, art, reading, writing, blocks, and science experiments.


The fee is per child. This program is exclusive to Arboretum members. Sessions run from September 6, 2022, to May 12, 2023. Limit 12 children per session with two instructors. Tuition is paid in three installments: one deposit for 15% of tuition at the time of registration and two-semester payments of 37.5% each.

  • Roots Class (3-yr-olds): Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (must be three by September 1, 2022) $3,200
  • Saplings Class (4-yr-olds): Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (must be four by September 1, 2022) $4,500
  • Trees Class (mixed ages 4-5): Mondays through Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (must be four by September 1, 2022) $5,600

Enrollment Deposit

A 15 percent nonrefundable deposit is required to secure space in the program. The remaining two payments are each 37.5% of the tuition. The deposit will be refunded if The Morton Arboretum cancels the program for any reason.

Refund and Cancelation Policy

Fees are nonrefundable and nontransferable. A full refund will be issued in the event that The Morton Arboretum cancels a class section for any reason. Refunds will be issued by check if the original payment was made by cash or check, or by credit to the same credit card used to make the original payment.

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