Do you send your children to a nature preschool? Have you ever heard of a “nature preschool”? My suspicion is probably not. While they aren’t necessarily a new thing, they are becoming increasingly popular with the movement to get kids back into the outdoors.
In previous posts, I’ve asked you to think about your childhood experiences. Most of the most memorable times were spent outdoors. This, coupled with the fact that nature is beneficial to both young and old, supports the idea of a “nature preschool” or any “nature” school for that matter.
So, what is the premise of a nature preschool?
Here are some main concepts for a nature preschool:
- child-centered outdoor discovery opportunities
- allowance for unstructured exploration
- utilization of natural settings
- “informal” nature-themed education programs
- commitment to high standards and expectations for children
- developmentally appropriate early childhood education
“It’s not that children don’t still enjoy the outdoors. Rather, over-scheduled days, the allure of electronic play, testing-obsessed schools, and media-fueled parental fears are causing the landscapes of natural play to be supplanted by off-white walls and digital displays.” (taken from https://www.bankstreet.edu/occasional-paper-series/33/nature-preschools/)
Some nature schools spend the whole day outside, while others just go out for multiple activities every day. Either way, learning is achieved through meaningful outdoor experiences that allow children to explore and discover their surroundings. “Normal” classroom activities are still implemented, but they are inspired by children’s outdoor discoveries and nature themes.
Most nature preschools focus all of their daily activities in and around nature.
“Dr. Patti Bailie, a pioneer of research on the nature preschool movement who currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Maine at Farmington, and Ken Finch, Founding Director of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood, offer three main criteria to distinguish nature preschools:
- Nature is the central organizing concept of the program. That is, nature is the integrating thread that intentionally ties together the preschool’s philosophy, methodologies, class-room design, outdoor spaces, and public identity.
- A nature preschool’s program is based on high-quality practices of both early childhood education (developmentally appropriate practices) and environmental education (the North American Association for Environmental Education’s “Guidelines for Excellence in Environmental Education” and principles of interpretation), requiring its teaching staff to have skills and experience in both early childhood education and environmental education.
- A nature preschool program uses the natural world to support dual goals that address both child development and conservation values. These include the development of the world of the child (in all domains – cognitive, physical, social, emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual) and the development of an ecological identity or environmental ethic.”
So what do you think? Would you send your child to a nature preschool? Post a comment and share your ideas!