Nature Preschool Definition
The Natural Start Alliance, a program of the North American Association for Environmental Education, has defined nature preschools using the following characteristics:
- Nature is the central organizing concept of the program. That is, nature is the integrating thread that intentionally ties together the preschool’s philosophy, methodologies, class-room design, outdoor spaces, and public identity.
- A nature preschool’s program is based on high-quality practices of both early childhood education (developmentally appropriate practices) and environmental education (the North American Association for Environmental Education’s “Guidelines for Excellence in Environmental Education” and principles of interpretation), requiring its teaching staff to have skills and experience in both early childhood education and environmental education.
- A nature preschool program uses the natural world to support dual goals that address both child development and conservation values. These include the development of the world of the child (in all domains – cognitive, physical, social, emotional, aesthetic, and spiritual) and the development of an ecological identity or environmental ethic.
Nature Preschool Movement
Rooted in the teaching and philosophies of educational greats, the idea of nature as educator is gaining popularity within the United States as research continues to support its overarching positive effects for whole child development. Nature preschools have been popular in Europe and Scandinavia for decades and are growing here in the United States with the Natural Start Alliance reporting over 250 nature preschools nationwide.(https://naturalstart.org/sites/default/files/staff/nature_preschools_national_survey_2017.pdf)
The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center is excited to offer the second nature preschool in Alabama, Woodland Wonders, established 2019. Woodland Wonders uses an emergent, child-led curriculum based in play and developmentally appropriate practices. Nature Preschools are valued for their attention and support of a child’s social, physical, and mental growth. Students engage in rich play opportunities which are guided by their explorations and questioning. A typical day consists of the following schedule:
Arrival and Morning Greetings
Playing and Exploring on Nature Playground
Exploration Hike, Crafts and Activities
Storytime and Closing Activities