It's a veritable wonderland of learning for young children.

The "Science & Nature Explorers" are gathering Mondays and Wednesdays at the Pratt Nature Center in New Milford for a pre-k/kindergarten program designed to lay the foundation for future learning.

The outdoor program has kids, aged 3 to 5, catching frogs and salamanders, raising hens from tiny one-day old chicks and then checking for their eggs.

"The three older hens were laying all summer. The kids are so excited when they find the eggs," said Pratt program director Diane Swanson. "They love to be explorers, learning the difference between bunnies and squirrels."

The center was to get a donkey, two pygmy goats and a miniature horse last week. Ms. Swanson planned to introduce her explorers to the new residents that afternoon.

"I give age-appropriate information on the creatures, life cycles, the changing seasons -- in the summer we went in the stream," she said. "This fall we're taking big sycamore leaves that curl like boats and float them in the stream."

The sessions are offered Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, each with four students.

Ms. Swanson hopes to bring the number to eight students in each session.

"Science & Nature Explorers" will meet through the winter, using snowshoes, the sledding hill and meeting indoors on especially bad weather days.

For more information, call 860-355-3137.