Boston is getting its first outdoor preschool, a program that will expose children to the lessons of nature.
“Most American kids don’t spend large chunks of their day catching salamanders and poking sticks into piles of fox poop,” an article in the Atlantic about a Maryland program notes. “But that’s precisely what students do at the Nature Preschool at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Maryland. There, every day, dozens of children ages 3 to 5 come to have adventures on Irvine’s more than 200 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows.”
These outdoor programs have “all the same child development goals that more traditional schools have, but they also are committed to accomplishing those goals through experiences in and with nature,” according to the Natural Start Alliance, a network of individuals and organizations that’s part of the North American Association for Environmental Education.
“Bringing children to the natural world—or bringing nature to them—is not a panacea, nor is it the only way for parents and teachers to ignite curiosity and wonder or to help children focus. However, researchers are assembling a growing body of evidence that strongly suggests the importance of nature to children’s health and their ability to learn.”
Now it’s Boston’s turn to reap the benefits of outdoor preschool.
Sarah Besse, a co-founder of BOPN, told the Jamaica Plain News. “The best part about spending time in nature is that you never know what you’ll find; at many schools all the lessons are pre-planned by the teacher, but in nature there’s that sense of wonder when you see something unexpected or amazing.”
“In nature, the teachers’ role is not to ‘deliver’ pre-planned lessons, but rather to learn and explore with the children.”
At BOPN, children will also learn typical preschool subjects, including early math and reading skills. And when the weather is bad, they will be able to use an indoor classroom in a nearby church.
“Our goals extend far beyond the preschool years. Children who experience the joy and wonder of nature during their early years become adults who care about protecting our environment locally and globally,” BOPN says on its website.
Or as Louv says in his book, “How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives.”