Elements, the Nature Preschool offers Outdoors Classrooms and a Dynamic Environment for Children to Play, Explore, Experience, Create, Learn and Grow

Every morning, children make their way through the bustling streets of New York’s Lower East Side to a preschool tucked away on Suffolk Street: Elements, The Nature Preschool. A hidden oasis, Elements’ Open Air Outdoor Classrooms welcome children 3 months to 5 years of age. An advocate of authentic, true, and child-driven play, Elements prioritizes community within the pillars of equity, determination, risk-taking, autonomy, and inclusion. Elements believes in the power of wonder and how it sparks with joy through an intentional environment cultivated amongst loose parts and growing plants. In an environment that feels like an extension of home, a space of child ownership and comfort, Elements guides the problem-solving and conflict resolution of early social development. With this guidance, children create honest and caring relationships with themselves, each other, and the outside world. Founded in 2015 by Shilpa Sethi, Elements was built on the core principle of “calling children back to their innate relationship with nature.”

A Note from Our Educational Director, Vanessa Ramos:

Two small hands reach high, and a body jumps feet first into ankle deep mud-water. Splatters of laughter erupt from surrounding friends. The tomatoes nearby catch little brown droplets of silky mud on their just orange skin. A teacher notices how the mud drips down the curved shape of the tomato, how the soil drinks the water in, and the children notice, as they always do, where more water can be applied. At Elements, we notice and harvest the power of cause, effect, and connection. How every action designs the next. How every child impacts the world.

Elements emerged as a nature preschool 5 years ago. An all weather, environmentally driven program, we continue to believe in, and witness, the incomparable benefits of “natural world magic.” The snow we pack into buckets and serve to friends who always want ice cream. The assortment of ice cream flavors we create with the flick of a wrist. The outstretched tongue leaning forward to a small, gripped hand, lapping up a delicious treat of imagination.

Elements wants to eat pretend ice cream with your children. Elements wants to sky gaze through the overlapping trees with your children. Elements wants to use too many band-aids, hide-and-seek children who hide in the same spot every time, and sort teeny-tiny rocks with your children. Elements wants to give your children everything these months might have taken from them.

In 1911, the world turned to “open-air classrooms” to relieve their children from swooping cases of tuberculosis. Children could unite, learn, and grow together amongst the natural healing momentum of the outdoors, and adapt as children always do (Bellafonte, 2020). Elements has always taken this approach to education, and welcomes you to join us now when it matters most. To come home with mud on your clothes, a story to tell, and love in your heart.

With gratitude and hope,

Vanessa Ramos
MS Early & Special Education
Educational Director, Early Educator, Family Coach

Welcoming Children from 3 months to 5 years

Caterpillars

3 – 18 months

Discoverers

13 – 30 months

Explorers

2.5 – 3 years

Adventurers

3 – 5 years

Why Choose Elements Preschool?
  • Open air, outdoor classrooms in the heart of Manhattan
  • Educators with a commitment to nature and a passion for early work
  • Nature driven, emergent curriculum grounded in community care
  • Developed appreciation and mindfulness for the natural world
  • Social and emotional focus that centers social equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Flexible school scheduling with extended care, family workshops, and partnerships


Our unique child-led, emergent curriculum philosophy marries play, discovery, and creative individualism together, encouraging collaboration, curiosity, and a spirited learning community.

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