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Meet Deborah (Deb) Long of Little Forest Preschool in North Druid Hills Historic District

Today we’d like to introduce you to Deborah (Deb) Long.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
For almost 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with children in various settings. The most meaningful, powerful and life changing experiences I have had with children occured when working in nature. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1999, where I majored in sociology and minored in education and women’s studies, I worked as a counselor and teacher at Eckerd Youth Alternatives in Inverness, Florida. This outdoor residential therapy program provided girls (10-17 years old) who were struggling with behavior challenges opportunities for growth and recovery while living completely immersed nature. We built the structures we slept in by chopping down trees, sinking poles and securing tarps for roofs, which was our only barrier from the elements. We went on extended backpacking and river/canoe trips, and truly experienced outdoor survival. I saw the lives of girls transform through the process as they were loved, cared for and supported in this environment.

After leaving Eckerd in 2005 I ventured to Atlanta and accepted an opportunity to teach kindergarten using Outward Bound’s Expeditionary Learning model at Amana Academy. After teaching there for 2 years I went back to school at Georgia State University to obtain my Masters in Social Work.

After my daughter, Emerson, was born in 2009, and then my son, Elias, was born in 2010, I co-founded New Morning Community Preschool. I co-owned, co-directed, and taught at this cooperative preschool, that all of my children attended with me, until 2017, when I learned that our rental space was under contract to be sold to a developer. In the wake of deciding to close the school, I held great consideration for my youngest daughter Estelle who was born in 2013. With one more year left before she would enter Kindergarten, I decided to open Little Forest Preschool, which allows me to combine nature immersion with education, exposing our youngest learners to the beauty of being outdoors.

Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the amazing positive impact being outside has on mental, physical and emotional wellness. These opportunities have also fostered in me a deeper love and appreciation of the natural world and belief that it is the very best setting to nurture a love of learning.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Little Forest Preschool is a unique outdoor preschool for children between the ages of 3 and 5. We incorporate a range of activities, including dress-up, puppet play, and building with blocks into our time outdoors. Our outdoor environment includes elements such as a canoe filled with sand, a mud pie kitchen with running water, a vegetable garden, a sensory table, a fairy garden and a gathering circle of sitting stumps. Weekly activities include fire ceremonies, during which our students can add a piece of the wood (that they helped chop) to the fire (that they helped build) as they share a special moment, appreciation or aspiration with the group.

Each week students take music and art classes, spend time developing fine and gross motor skills, garden and take nature hikes. Attention is paid to thoughtful introduction of language and math concepts and a love of learning is fostered daily. Monthly activities include field trips to local gardens and nature-based areas. While social and emotional skills are practiced daily, we complete one service project each semester that has a positive impact on the community.

We spend the entire day outdoors, going inside only during inclement weather or when temperatures plunge below freezing. While spending as much time outdoors as possible, we foster thoughtfulness, kindness and a deep love and understanding of the natural world.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have always loved working with children and I love teaching, so that part feels easy. However managing a business is not my expertise or my passion and that often feels difficult. Thankfully there are resources to support me through the business decisions I make daily. I have obtained my business license in both the City of Atlanta as well as DeKalb county and both experiences have been daunting, time consuming and full of unnecessary challenges. I also find it difficult to balancing the demand for reasonably priced childcare and paying employees what I believe they should earn. When I decided to open Little Forest Preschool, I only had one location in mind for the school (The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany) and they accepted my rental proposal right away so that felt like the easiest part of this venture so far. I feel so honored to share their beautiful wooded space!

Pricing:

  • 5 Day standard drop off rate is $500/month
  • 5 Day cooperative rate (one work day each week) is $350/month

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Amanda Sloane Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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