Some good news in American education! Washington recently became the first state to license outdoor preschools. These are preschools where kids play and learn in nature all day. The very fact that kids aren’t sitting a tables being drilled on reading and math skills is a good step forward. But giving kids the chance to explore and muck around in nature all day is huge.
This isn’t exactly a new idea. Germany has had Waldkindergarten and Waldkitas (forest kindergartens and forest day cares) since the 1960s, and they could be found in Sweden and Denmark even earlier. So yeah, the U.S. is a little behind, but hey, better late than never. It’s funny that one of the people interviewed by the Today show even quotes a version of the German saying “There is no bad weather only bad clothing” — “Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, es gibt nur falsche Kleidung” which I understand is also a saying in Scandinavian cultures.
Washington State University is also conducting a study on these preschools which is brilliant. (Full disclosure: I recently started working as a science writer at WSU, but I would love this either way.) I suspect the value of time spent in nature will be validated by research. It’s also something most of us know from our own experience: we just feel better when we spend some time outdoors.
I hope to see not just more outside preschools in the US but also more value placed on outside time in general for all of us — but especially for kids.
Let’s put more “garden” back into kindergarten!
About the photo: My daughter at a park in Berlin some years ago. While they didn’t attend a Waldkita, my kids’ schools in Germany made sure the children went outside every day.