School In The Forest from dantv on Vimeo.
When we were looking for daycare for the Kiddo for when I go back to work in a month or so, one thing we tried to find was a center that had access to a great outdoor play area. Unfortunately, it seems that trees and walks in the woods aren’t really a key focus of daycare design. I have yet to find a center that has a playground with trees in it, let alone access to a garden. Most were clustered in shopping districts and business trade centers, surrounded by metal and cement, and with play yards carpeted with rubberized “safety” mulch. I know he will spend most of his days inside, and it breaks my heart to think of him tucked away in a stuffy room with a line of cribs and bouncers rather than taking walks outside in the fresh air and looking at the trees he loves so much. We’ll have to work overtime to make sure we get him outside in the evenings and weekends as much as possible.
I came across this video highlighting an outdoors-only preschool, and wish we had something like this in our area. Heck. I wish I had something like this when I was a kid. Cedarsong Nature School is located on Vashon Island, just off of Seattle Washington. The kids are outdoors all day, every day. They have a circle of stumps that serve as a meeting place, and create shelters out of tarps when it rains. Basically, they learn to play in the rain as well as the sun, and become intimately acquainted with the forest around them. The teachers help the kids learn to sharpen their observation skills and pay attention to the changes the ecosystem goes through over the course of the year. They play games, do art projects, tell stories, all the same things a kid does in a “regular” preschool. Except they have “handwarmer” baked potato snacks when it is cold outside. They also have a pretty long waitlist, which tells me that we need more programs like this in our country. Less rubberized safety mulch, more potato handwarmers.
There is a “nature-based” daycare/preschool here in Nashua. Not exactly an all-outdoors school but it’s pretty cool. They have a vegetable garden that kids tend to and lots of trails to take walks in. The catch is that it’s pricey. When I told Zeb how much, he was like “who can afford this – hippies with trust funds?” Oh well.
I do have to say I was impressed with the place we took Zoe when I was working even though it was in a urban setting. They did a pretty good job of getting the kids outside every day. They only stayed inside on the coldest/rainiest of days otherwise they would dress them all up in their snowsuits and boots (which is no easy task when you have 15 almost two-year olds!) and get them outside. So there is hope out there even in the more traditional daycare settings.
We did finally get a space in a daycare that does have real grass inside and trees along the outside of the play area-and they go outside twice a day. So that’s better than nothing. I’m glad to hear there is SOME progress being made in Nashua. The seacoast just hasn’t caught up yet, I guess. There are some really cool nature-based programs around here, but they aren’t really daycare, and are only part-time, the kind of thing you could drop your preschoolers off at for a few hours if you were home with them. What about us working mums?