New trend? Nine outdoor preschools open in Seattle parks


Three- and four-year-olds in Seattle, WA, swap preschool classes for the great outdoors.

As part of a new partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, Tiny Trees Preschool will promote learning in nine city parks starting in September 2016.

Andrew Jay, one of the school’s founders, argues that whatever kids can do indoors, they can do in a city park. Additionally, there are many additional opportunities in the natural world for discovery. Using a skill set Jay developed at Outward Bound working with middle school and high school students, he’s ready to bring outdoor learning into the mainstream.

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“When I heard about outdoor preschools, how they can make them much more affordable for families and provide a rich and vibrant curriculum for kids, I was really inspired,” Jay told Good News Network.

Children will use the park toilets, take a nap on mats inside the park shelters and take their lessons under the picnic pavilions when it rains. And, because Seattle gets a lot of rainfall each year, kids will each be given “award-winning Oakiwear rain suits” to wear all year round.

The open-air classroom will have different stations, similar to a Montessori school, where students can explore different layers of the forest. Jay says a science station might involve baking a mud pie to learn more about the surface’s adhesion or using a magnifying glass to identify insects, and an art station might use heaps of sticks and sticks. leaves to make sculptures. Traditional story time, with lots of books, will also be standard.

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Without the overhead of buildings, Tiny Trees can make year-round preschool more affordable and spend more money on quality teachers – this will cost around $ 7,000 per year, down from $ 12,000, which is the average cost in Seattle.

The inspiration for Andrew is a school for fifty families started two years ago at the University of Washington. Fiddleheads Nature School has been a successful outdoor model for Seattle, with teachers saying they were delighted to see bald eagles mating, young owls soaring, and praying mantises hunting in class.

The concept was developed in Denmark and Sweden in the 1950s, before spreading to other European countries, including Germany, where 1,000 open-air kindergartens are currently operating. In the United States, there are schools in Maine, San Francisco, and Georgia.

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Tiny Trees is pointing to the UK’s Forest School Association, with the video below, as a model for what it plans to create in Washington.

“Teaching in kindergarten is pretty magical,” Jay said. “Instead of being a teacher pouring knowledge by cup into each student, you are helping each child collect drops of knowledge.”

True to that natural analogy, Jay said the name “Tiny Trees” was chosen because preschool age is when children “make their first memories and develop roots in their community that last a lifetime.” The school has chosen a sprouting acorn as its logo and hopes that a total of 20 outdoor schools will sprout locally by 2020.

(LOOK the video below) – Photos by Heaton Johnson, CC; Association of Forestry Schools, video


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