Ipswich River Nature Preschool

Our program is full for the 2022-2023 school year. If you would like to be added to our waitlist, please review our How to Apply section for instructions.

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How to Apply

There is a waitlist for all 2022-2023 programs. Join the waitlist >

Contact Us

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Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary is proud to offer a nature preschool for 3-5 year olds located at Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary in Wenham.

As a program of Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, we benefit from highly qualified nature educators and a variety of nature education resources. We are licensed by the MA Department of Early Education & Care and all of our educators are Lead Teacher certified.

To learn more about our program please register for one of our virtual or in-person Open House events. Due to COVID-19 precautions, we won't have tours until a family has been accepted into the program.

Philosophy & Nature Connection

Recent studies confirm that children are spending less time engaged in vigorous outdoor play. The Ipswich River Nature Preschool provides young children on the North Shore with early educational experiences that foster the development of the whole child and a lifelong relationship with nature.


Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary's 40-acre landscape in Wenham offers a variety of opportunities for exciting daily investigation, observation, and discovery. We spend the majority of our day outdoors where hands-on science activities, nature walks, and gardening foster curiosity and creativity.

Inside our two spacious classrooms, nature themes continue with children’s literature, music and movement, dramatic play, cooking, blocks and building, and art activities.

Additional experiences include field trips to Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield for seasonal activities such as maple sugaring, vernal pool observations, and ponding.


Ipswich River Nature Preschool is grounded in developmentally appropriate state and national early childhood education guidelines. Our emergent curriculum approach emphasizes purposeful and productive play as a way to enable children to grow physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually.

Project Approach

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While interacting with nature, children’s questions and observations provide the road map for short and long term investigations and projects that integrate math, science, and literacy.

Children become motivated storytellers and writers as they document their observations of a robin’s nest. They use math in meaningful ways as they predict and record the number of days it will take for a butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis, for example.

Productive Play

Young children learn best through purposeful and productive play. Outdoor play experiences such as building a fort or digging a channel between two puddles provide children with opportunities to practice the social and intellectual skills of planning, problem-solving, decision-making, and collaboration.

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Building fairy houses under the canopy of the beech trees, turning over logs to look for salamanders, and harvesting fresh vegetables for snacks from our gardens are just a few of the ways that children engage all their senses.

Creative Learning

The beauty of our gardens and woods inspire joyful self-expression and creativity through the arts. Natural materials are incorporated into painting, drawing, weaving and sculptural experiences that allow children to visually convey their ideas and emotions.

Family Communications

Strong relationships with families are cultivated through multiple opportunities for parent participation. Teachers regularly share documentation of children’s learning with parents through private blogs, photos, and video. We welcome parent volunteers and help families connect with one another during family potlucks and programs.

Apply for 2022-2023 School Year


Our program is full for the 2022-2023 school year. If you would like to be added to our waitlist, please send a completed application form by email to Preschool Director Karen First. If spaces become available, they will be filled in the order that applications are received and we will notify you. There will be an opportunity to tour the school either virtually or in-person if a spot should become available.

Application Process

All interested families must submit an application for enrollment. Spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis and admission is by date order as applications are received. Priority is given to current families, siblings, and alumni families. Applications will be accepted from all families, without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, cultural history, political beliefs, marital status, or disability. Children must be age 3 prior to September 1, 2022, to be considered for admission.

Financial Aid

Limited financial aid is available. Please contact contact Karen First, our Preschool Director, with any questions or if you would like more information.

Program Options for 2022-2023

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School begins in early September and runs through early June. With a few exceptions, we follow the vacation schedule of the Wenham-Hamilton public schools.

Our class sizes are small, with two highly qualified educators to no more than 10 children in the 3s class, and to 16 children in the 4s class. All our teachers are licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.

Chickadees (age 3) & Blue Jays (age 4)

  • Tuesday & Thursday, 9 am–12 pm
  • Monday, Wednesday, & Friday, 9 am–12 pm
  • Monday-Friday, 9 am–12 pm (5 days)

Owls (ages 4-5)

  • Monday-Thursday, 9 am–12 pm (4 days)
  • Limited space, please check with Director for availability

Additional Options (all ages)

For additional fees, children may also participate in the following programs:

  • Early drop-off, 8–9 am
  • Lunch Bunch, 12–1 pm
  • Monday-Thursday Afternoons, 12–3 pm (includes Lunch Bunch)*

*Please note that afternoon programming is dependent on enrollment.

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