Frequently Asked Questions
What is Banyan Forest Kindergarten?
Banyan Forest Kindergarten is an exceptional, nature-based & Spanish-immersion education for children, preschool and kindergarten ages (3-6 years old) operated by Monica Martinez, an experienced Waldorf teacher in partnership with the School on The Rise on its magnificent eight-acre property.
Where is the school located?
Our Forest Kindergarten is located on a magnificent eight-acre property in southwest Austin, Texas - off of Hwy 290, near Belterra and Nutty Brown Road - just a few short minutes from Dripping Springs.
What are the days and hours?
Monday through Friday: 9--3pm. Drop off is between 8:30--9am. Pick up is between 3--3:30pm.
Can you tell me more about the rituals and rhythm?
We believe that rituals and rhythm are key components in the lives of children. We aim to instill this sense of consistency so that the child feels secure enough to creatively play and explore. Learn more about our daily and yearly rhythm here.
Why Spanish immersion?
When children live with a language day after day, they learn that language. Once they learn a second language, they have a new relationship with our diverse global community. And when they learn that second language early enough, they have an easier time with all languages. At Banyan Forest Kindergarten, children will hear and speak Spanish most of the time—for conversation and stories, for poetry and songs. English will be spoken only when it’s needed.
Where do the children play?
Banyan Forest Kindergarten has three outdoor sites—our welcome area and two additional base camps for instruction. Each day we will be in one of these two sites as our base camp for that day. The base camp will serve as the center for our school day. It will support our group’s quiet times and will provide a snug space at any point when a child wants that.
The base camp will hold the equipment needed for that day’s activities. Often a campfire will be going, with water heating for tea. At the beginning of each day, the teacher will walk the students around the “boundaries” for that day, putting in place colorful wooden markers that indicate precisely how far from the base camp the children may roam. No one is to go past the markers unless they’re accompanied by a teacher. The markers make this rule—and the day’s borders—easy to remember.
There is also a classroom in the schoolhouse reserved for Banyan students. We will, however, spend most of our day outdoors.
Do the children ever go inside?
Yes. After lunch each day, we go inside for quiet story time. The children unroll their sleeping mats and rest while a story is narrated to the children. Some children will fall asleep. Others simply rest. We will also be inside more frequently on days when it is very rainy or incredibly cold.
What happens when it rains? Or it’s very hot?
The premise behind forest kindergartens is that children are happiest when they’re close to Nature—and this includes her glorious extremes. Experiencing the heat and the cold, the rain and the wind is important in this learning process. These children will be learning how to be with Nature safely and intelligently. They’ll be learning how to live in the elements.
Does this take special clothing and gear?
Yes, clearly it does. Just as hiking requires some special clothes and gear, spending most of the day outside does as well. For parents, this may require an investment—especially since your child is still growing! In the application process, you can request a list of the clothing and gear the school recommends that each student have. Fortunately, most of these items are inexpensive and easily found, and it will be possible for some parents to locate hand-me-downs.
What about food and water?
Each day the student will bring their own compact cooler with water, lunch, and two healthy snacks. Fresh, filtered water will always be available to replenish the student’s water bottle. There will be scheduled snack and lunch times. Each child must bring sufficient quantities of healthy, low sugar, food for a morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack.
In conjunction with the School on the Rise, we will compost all food scraps and recycle any trash. We ask that parents send all food in reusable containers. Single-serving, prepackaged food containers and bags may seem convenient, but they produce more trash than is felicitous. In the long run, reusable containers are much more convenient!
Stings, bites, and scrapes?
Central Texas offers an impressive array of flora and fauna that defend themselves with stings and spikes, with bites and venom of various strengths. Part of the lesson plan is to teach children to recognize these plants and animals and how to respectfully avoid them. The teacher will have an insect repellant to apply as needed—or parents can provide another for their own child—and there are well-stocked first aid kits for that day’s base camp and in the schoolhouse.
We will have access to the recently constructed Forest Privy—a tiny, clean, light-filled house in the woods with a state-of-the-art composting toilet. The children will be taught the use of this eco-friendly toilet and will learn as well the value of composting—how, for instance, compost is processed and used to nourish the soil.
Are you accepting applications?
Yes. We are currently accepting applications for both the school year and the summer camp.
How do I apply?
You can read about our application process and apply here.