I have always been drawn to the outdoors, perhaps because I spent so much of my own childhood among the trees and meadows. That is why I am always thrilled to hear of another innovative early childhood program that embraces the outdoors as the classroom and allows young children to explore and learn surrounded by nature.
The Mother Earth School in Portland, Oregon is an outdoor immersion program offering classes for preschoolers to second graders. The preschool program is located on a 7-acre permaculture farm, situated just ten minutes outside of urban Portland. All of the EC teachers are Waldorf trained. Although the program does not advertise itself as a Waldorf school, the philosophies regarding nature and a reverence for childhood are obvious and the curriculum has a “Waldorf” feel. The preschool programs are for half-day only and the teacher-child ratio is enviable at 1:6.
This is from their website, describing the preschool experience:
The preschool and kindergarten are welcomed each day with seasonal activities and a warm snack cooked over the fire. Circle time, gardening, gathering tea leaves, forest walks, free play and visiting the farm animals fill the children’s morning with enchantment as they journey across the land. A picnic lunch and story time in the warming hut end the day with a cozy sense of togetherness. Our early childhood programs lay the foundation for academic learning through movement and games designed to support healthy brain and sensory development.
Reviewing their website was a treat for me. I felt inspired as I read about another creative learning experience available for families who understand the importance of play, the need to cherish childhood, and the value of connecting children to nature.
Outdoor immersion programs seem to be on the rise. I think this is an encouraging trend. A question that came to mind as I reviewed this program was: What prevents our public schools from incorporating nature into the curriculum? It seems unfair that these innovative outdoor programs are usually only accessible to families who can afford them—not only in terms of money, but also in terms of time. What prevents a public preschool from offering at least a half-day outdoor immersion program within a full day schedule geared to providing childcare for working parents? Don’t all children deserve the opportunity to learn in a program that values “enchantment”? It seems doable to me. Have you any thoughts on the topic?