We Get
The Outdoors

preschool children capturing bug in nature
preschool children capturing bug in nature

who we are



For over 60 years, we have provided intentional, flexible, individualized early education for Upper Valley children and families.

What does this mean?

We get to know each child’s personality, strengths, and areas for growth. Teachers adapt their teaching to each of our students and each of our classroom communities. We build a child’s confidence and sense of self. We nurture their curiosity, love of learning, and willingness to make mistakes. We encourage them to be independent and collaborative. Above all, we encourage kindness.

This is top-notch early childhood education - social-emotional growth, building the foundations for elementary school learning.

How we connect

We Are

HCNS will come to feel like an extension of your family. You will find yourself lingering at drop-off and pick-up to chat with the other families and to let the kids have “just a few more minutes” on the big climbing tree or in Dorothy’s Garden. You’ll share advice, and gain advice.

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Our families take many forms – two parents, single parents, grandparents, adoptive and foster parents, parents who work outside and inside the home, parents who are students.

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We are a cooperative. Every parent joins a team to help with events and stewardship of the school. This might be garden, fundraising, holiday celebrations, or playground building projects.

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We take pride in supporting our students, and our families. We’ll celebrate the arrival of a baby, rally around a family loss, and be part of the fabric of your community.

what we do

Exploration of
Self and Nature

Our Classroom is Nature

Our school sits atop a field, overlooking conservation land, the Connecticut River, and the Dartmouth Organic Farm. These natural areas are part of our classroom. On any given day, we might go for a hike, paint in the field, go sledding, or enjoy a snack outside.

Our Teaching is Individualized

Every child is different, and each classroom community is distinctive. We place value on getting to know your child – and letting them know that we see them for their unique selves. This is not cookiecutter nursery school, this is intentional, flexible, tailored education.

Our Approach is Experiential

We learn through doing – including making a mess and making mistakes. We engage all of the senses and take note of what we are learning, as well as how we are learning. We use a variety of materials, settings, and methods to facilitate learning by doing.


hand drawn image of watering can



hand drawn image of plant growing in pot


picture of hcns preschool children and teacher in classroom
hand drawn image of plant growing in pot


picture of preschool parent and children in nature

“Three of my children attended HCNS. They’re very different kids, but each one of them loved it. The teachers are wonderful and the friendship they made followed them to elementary school”  We felt they were very well prepared for school after HCNS, socially and academically.“

HCNS Alumni Parent
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“We joke that you can tell the HCNS kids and families in a crowd. The kids have this calm confidence – and boundless energy – and the parents are so grounded and people we’ve really enjoyed becoming friends with.”

HCNS Parent
5 stars pixel art