Wise Forest Preschool is a child-centered outdoor preschool program with classes and camps held in a beautiful wooded area of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Our play-based curriculum is designed for children ages 2.5 (3 during Covid-19) to 5 and is modeled after European forest kindergartens. Activities include valuable free play time, hiking, hands-on ecology lessons, fort building, creative arts, and circle time. Our ratios are 4 students per teacher. We carefully observe each student's natural strengths and interests and we strive to empower them to embrace and cultivate their unique abilities.
Students have the opportunity to develop their senses, creativity, powers of observation, and coordination by exploring and engaging the natural environment. We foster emotional awareness, and we praise mindfulness, effort, and concentration. Our goal is to cultivate compassion, empathy, and a lasting connection to the natural world.
For more depth about the Forest School Approach, click here.
"The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness."
About the Founder
Mara Gladden launched Wise Forest Preschool in 2014. She holds the highest level of forest school teacher certification from one of the leading forest schools in the country, Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island in Washington State. Coming from a family of physicists and chemists, Mara has had a passion for science and nature from a young age. She found her calling in the life sciences and studied Biology at the University of Washington. Mara has eight years of professional experience teaching children in an outdoor classroom setting.
Mara grew up in a rural area in Washington state and spent any and all free time outside exploring and building. She developed a deep reverence and appreciation for the natural world. Through direct experience, Mara learned that contact with nature boosts children's self-confidence and promotes joyfulness. Mara is passionate about providing city children the opportunity to form lasting bonds with nature. Outside of forest school she enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, and trail running with her husband, son, and their two dogs.
"Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow."
By: Mara Aaberg
About the Director
"Wisdom begins in wonder."
By: Mara Aaberg
Mara Aaberg is the director of Wise Forest Preschool in San Francisco. Mara is passionate about providing city children the opportunity to form lasting bonds with nature.
Faye Terry has been teaching with us since February of 2017. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and spent time on a farm above the clouds in Big Sur, California. She is beyond excited to descend from the mountaintops and fulfill her longtime dream of digging roots in the Bay area!
As an undergraduate at Clark University studying International Development and Social Change & Geography with a concentration in Sub-Saharan African Politics, she spent a semester studying abroad in Namibia in a program called “De-Colonizing the Mind.” During that time, she worked in the only functional shelter for abused women and children in the country to build the capacity of Namibian institutions to combat gender-based violence and provide care for survivors of domestic abuse. That experience inspired an urgent itch inside her to travel, ask questions, and most importantly, listen. Upon her return, she completed a masters degree in Community Development & Planning with a concentration in Youth Development, and has since then remained on the path toward community development through the empowerment of young people, that inevitably is powered by a pragmatic yet ambitious vision for social justice. She spent two seasons working as a teacher at an environmental education nonprofit, where she was responsible for unplugging elementary and middle school students from the wired and disconnected world in which they are embedded by sparking a sincere interest in learning and exploration of the social and ecological world around them. She then spent a year teaching at an alternative arts-based preschool in Brooklyn, and simultaneously earned her Emergency Medical Technician certification.
Faye has come to learn that imagination always lives amongst children, so amongst children is where she must be!
Director & Lead Teacher
About the Teachers
Lead Teacher Tina
Teacher Tina was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She immigrated with her family to Toronto, Canada when she was 16 years old.
After graduating in Travel and Tourism she worked for various airlines. At KLM Royal Dutch Airlines she was a ticket agent and then moved on to become Assistant Station Manager for Malev Hungarian Airlines. Working for the airlines helped her understand and work with people’s needs, also giving her opportunities to visit Amsterdam and Budapest for her training.
After getting married she moved to London, England with her husband. It was in London, England where she decided to switch her career and got interested in Montessori teaching. Montessori teaching holds a lot of the philosophies that she believes in. After studying and getting her Diploma at the Maria Montessori Institute in London, she worked briefly at a Montessori school but then moved with her family to Mumbai, India to deliver her second child. After a brief stint in Mumbai , the family relocated once more to Long Beach, California.
She has spent the last eight years being a mother to her two children. As a Montessori teacher she was able to use a lot of the methods with her children at home.
Now she is able to spend some time getting back to what she loves doing, spending time with young children in helping guide and nurture them.
Lead Teacher Brittany
Brittany Malianni is a lead forest school teacher at Wise Forest Preschool. She joined the team in 2015, and has recently returned after living in the east bay for a year. She majored in earth sciences at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. She minored in anthropology and geography. Brittany has six years of experience teaching and caring for children and has taken classes at CCSF to further her knowledge of child development.
She’s thrilled about sharing her enthusiasm for nature with young learners. Brittany is exceptionally cheerful, warm, nurturing, and patient.
Brittany is from Ventura, California. On weekends she enjoys having picnics in the parks around the city and backpacking with her husband and her two children.
Jaymee Chaides was born and raised just outside of Los Angeles with two parents who enjoyed taking their three girls out into nature. While camping and hiking, her father taught her about everything from cloud formations to how canyons are formed. At a very young age Jaymee’s eyes would sparkle when she spoke of forest critters and exploring the ocean.
Once she graduated high school, she decided to continue living among nature by moving to Mammoth Lakes, CA. There, she worked as a snowboard instructor while supervising children aged 3 to 5 years old. In this line of work, as well as taking many courses in earth science, geography and biology at the local community college, Jaymee realized how much she loved studying science as well as interacting with children in nature, and could see how kids thrive in a more primal outdoor environment.
Upon leaving Mammoth Lakes Jaymee transferred to San Francisco State University where Jaymee studied biology with a concentration in Ecology and Marine Biology. Throughout her studies, she worked in various research labs, however she always felt there was an aspect in science that she was missing, sharing discoveries with children. Upon graduation, she moved to San Diego to work as a scuba dive guide and a children’s surf instructor. While interacting with kids in a forever changing environment like the ocean, Jaymee thought about how fantastic it is to instill confidence in children that they can work with nature to achieve great things.
Teacher Jaymee goes into every class with more excitement knowing not only how much she could share with the children, but also what the children could teach her.
Casey Selden has had a lifelong passion for acquiring and sharing knowledge. She’s been a San Franciscan for the last dozen years, but grew up on the East Coast, in Virginia. That’s where she first fell in love with the outdoor world, camping with family and spending summers outside in the heat and humidity that is the Atlantic Coast. She double majored in Geology and Geography at University and led backpacking trips for 9-16 year olds in Shenandoah National Park each summer. After graduation, she moved to California to work as a teacher / naturalist at an Outdoor Education School in Sonoma County. Casey spent three years in this role, teaching middle schoolers about science, ecology and sustainability with the forest, the river and the nearby beach as her classroom. She led night hikes and team building activities, challenged kids to hold bugs and meet banana slugs, connected with students from all over the Bay Area, and went by a nature name, which she’ll share with you if you ask nicely. She lived on site in the redwoods, and adjusted quite quickly to the temperate Bay Area climate. She is now an inveterate weather wimp.
In 2005, Casey co-founded Sierra Friends Camp, a wilderness adventure summer program for 9-14 year olds, located in the Sierra Foothills of California. Here she taught kids about backcountry camping, wilderness survival skills, the local ecology, and how to survive for weeks at a time without a cell phone. She directed the program for the next eight summers, welcomed hundreds of campers, and, after a great deal of practice, she can now start a campfire with just one match and is an expert at making the *perfect* s’more.
Next, Casey moved to San Francisco, where she started work at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. This is when Casey really got to know how the youngest of kids move through the world. She designed educational programs for 0-8 year olds, managing the educator team, organised school field trips, helped burgeoning artists learn how to use scissors and tape in the art barn, and learned a great deal about how intuitive young learners can be. She parlayed this knowledge into her next role, teaching preschoolers and elementary school students about palaeontology in a hands-on science program called Dinosaurs Rock! She also started work at the California Academy of Sciences, guiding thousands of planetarium visitors through the wonders of the universe. Meanwhile, she spent her weekends leading food tours around the city.
In her spare time, Casey prefers taking long walks around the Richmond district and relaxing with a book under the shade of a tree or by the mighty Pacific.