Outdoor Preschool Program- what would you want/expect? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 11 Old 10-04-2011, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, 

 

I've been musing for several years about starting an outdoor preschool program. I'm trying to form more specific goals for this program.  If you wouldn't mind responding to this thread to give me some initial feedback I would greatly appreciate it!

 

Keep in mind: I live in Massachusetts, so it gets cold and icy here!

 

 

Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year?

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool?

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)?

 

How many days a week would you be interested in (3-5 years old)?  How many hours?

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester?

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them?

 

What would you expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms?

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside?

 

What percentage of outdoor time vs. indoor time would be ideal for you?  (i.e. 75% of time outside, 25% inside, etc.)

 

Any other concerns/opinions/ideas?

 

Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

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#2 of 11 Old 10-04-2011, 12:00 PM
 
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I'll start by saying my kids are 10 and 14. We've been through the preschool thing and I taught preschool for the state for several years. We life in Southern California and preschool kids typically spend half their day outside as it is. Indoor time is typically spent at sensory tables and with play items better suited for indoors. There are some outdoor only preschool programs but they are run through the adult school and involve both child and parent in unison. They meet all over the county.


 

 

Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year? Probably not. While I want plenty of outdoor play, gardening, nature experiences, I also want the cooking projects, longer term science experiments, longer term art projects, ect. I'm not saying this can't be done outdoors only that it's not practical for the sorts of activities my own kids really loved best.

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool? Maybe as a supplement.

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)? No. I'd like there to be options for those who are into it... diverse reading material, uni-fix cubes and math manipulatives that can be used as toys or for math, the freedom to write a letter to grandma if they so wish. No expectations for academics, just the freedom to explore them if they so wish.

 

How many days a week would you be interested in (3-5 years old)?  How many hours? 3 days, 3 hours a day.

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester? whole year

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them? no, I would want them home. If I needed afterschool care, perhaps.

 

What would in expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms? Easy access to very clean, safe and sized for young children facilities. I would want a room where they could be in poor weather and where they could keep their things on nice days.

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside? I'm not a good judge. We rarely get under 55 lol.

 

My concerns would be proper supervision. If this was a moving program (meaning it met at different venues) safety would be an issue with a normal sized preschool group. 


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#3 of 11 Old 10-04-2011, 04:04 PM
 
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My kids are teens and attend a school with both an outdoor learning center and an outdoor skills program. A lot of your questions don't relate to our experience.

 

With our outdoor learning center, there is a fence (actually a series of fences). The green house is pretty darn safe, but the animal center has goats and chickens and the kids need a lot of supervisions. We also have outdoor areas for cooking, reading books, etc.

 

There are some issues with having younger children outdoors *in the wild.*  They can get lost or separated from the group. Some of them do not listen or are off in their own little world. When one misbehaves, it can take needed attention away from the quiet ones. In some activities with the school, each little kid is assigned to a big kid, so it's really one on one. I would be concerned about basic safety with so many such small children *in the wild.*

 

To me, there is a massive difference between just learning outside and working on outdoor skills, which for us includes things like hiking, backpacking, caving, etc.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#4 of 11 Old 10-05-2011, 06:37 AM
 
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We've lived in cold/snowy climates and more moderate/semi-tropical regions. Moderate weather definitely leads to more outdoor time, partly because it's just easier, especially with pre-schoolers. No fussing with layers of clothes, coats, hats, mittens, boots.......only to have to shed it all for a trip to the bathroom a few minutes after you get them all bundled up.  

 

My dc are teens now, so I've based my answers on our circumstances when they were preschool age. 

 

 

Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year?

I would want a daily outdoor component, all year round. 

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool? It would depend on the full scale of activities available at the school, the philosophy, discipline methods etc. 

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)?

Yes. My dc were early readers and enjoyed math activities at that age. They sought out those activities. If these activities weren't available, then I would probably use an outdoor pre-school in addition to a regular preschool.  

 

How many days a week would you be interested in (3-5 years old)?  How many hours?

When my dc were pre-school age, I was working full time. I would have considered full days. Again, depending on the activities available. 

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester?

Full year. 

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them?

Yes, I would have. Transportation would have been an issue for me as a working mom. If there was a pick-up from school and a lunch program, that would have been helpful. 

 

What would you expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms?

Readily available shelter if weather turns nasty and bathrooms as needed, but not necessarily running water/flush toilets etc. 

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside?

-15 F is fine for a typical outdoor recess period (15 to 30 minutes), as long as the children are dressed suitably. How low depends in part on how long they are outside. 

 

What percentage of outdoor time vs. indoor time would be ideal for you?  (i.e. 75% of time outside, 25% inside, etc.)

Somewhere between 50/50 and 60/40 outdoor to indoor. I would like it if they were crafting and studying their finds on nature walks, having snack, reading etc. In a winter setting, much of that would happen indoors. 

 

Any other concerns/opinions/ideas?

 

Supervision - the ratio of instructors/caregivers to children. 

Location - Where are the outdoor areas - a backyard or local park in our neighbourhood or a nature and wildlife reserve some distance away? 

Transportation - If the outdoor program isn't in the neighbourhood, how is travel to different outdoor areas managed? What kind of vehicles and car seats, driving records of the drivers etc.  

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#5 of 11 Old 10-05-2011, 06:41 AM
 
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My dd attended a preschool program with a primarily "outdoors" component to it.  It was fabulous, truly formative.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat, that's how strongly I feel about it.  Pm me if you'd like details.

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#6 of 11 Old 10-05-2011, 02:02 PM
 
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A few years ago, our local nature center started a preschool, and ever since then, it has been wildly popular.  I did not send my child, but I have friends and acquaintances who did.  All of them thought it was fantastic, and yes, they were almost always outside.   Perhaps, you might find it interesting to talk to them.

 

http://www.chippewanaturecenter.com/naturepreschool.htm

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#7 of 11 Old 10-07-2011, 04:56 AM
 
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#8 of 11 Old 10-07-2011, 12:45 PM
 
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Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year?

YES!

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool?

If you'd be there for my kids tomorrow I'd say supplement, but this is because we have access to a great preschool that does after-school care too...

If you there is an indoor daycare component after the preschool hours, I'd go for it as a regular preschool.

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)?

Not really. But lots and lots of nature talk. And well, it doesn't hurt to count rocks once in a while.

 

How many days a week would you be interested in (3-5 years old)?  How many hours?

As a supplement, I'd say two half days or one whole day.

As a regular: 3 days.

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester?

Semester first. This is something out of the ordinary and I would like to try before committing for a whole year.

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them?

We're in full day. If we were in half day, I'd LOVE that as a complementary program!

 

What would you expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms?

We're talking youngsters. There has to be lots of potty-tunities and quick access. I am cool with a well-maintained outhouse, or even just simple floor potties that get dumped in a bucket/or in the outhouse.

A 3 walled shelter for having snacks some sort of a circle time would be good.

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside?

I grew up going ice-fishing at -20. I have no problem with my kiddos staying out with school at -15 or so (Celcius, letting you do the conversion :p). As long as I know the person will check their boots once in a while. Feet are tricky. Unlike noses, you don't see them freeze. At that temperature though, I'd like to know they have some kind of a heated shelter for snacks.

 

What percentage of outdoor time vs. indoor time would be ideal for you?  (i.e. 75% of time outside, 25% inside, etc.)

If I sign up my kid in your program it is to go outside! They go in to have a snack without freezing their fingers. That's it.

I'd be kind of ticked off if they'd go in an actual building.


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#9 of 11 Old 10-09-2011, 07:55 PM
 
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My dd is older but I thought I would answer based on what I looked for when she was in preschool, this is mostly what I look for as far as after school programs go also.

 

Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year?

Possibly but it depends on how often free play materials like dress up, blocks, reading center, writing center, small motor toys, art, sensory exploration (beyond nature based material), etc... are available.  Outside time is something I value for my dd but I also have always wanted her in a setting that offers her a wide variety of choices to learn through play and act out life through dramatic play with friends.

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool?

If the program doesn't offer a wide variety of free play material I would consider it for a couple hours daily as long as the discipline philosophy acceptable.

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)?

I would want the material that supports early reading, writing, and math readiness to be available for exploration and I would expect the use to be modeled in a child appropriate way during circle time, but I wouldn't want my child to be forced into boxed activities.

How many days a week would you be interested in (3-5 years old)?  How many hours?

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester?

Whole year option with the standard 2-weeks notice clause.

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them?

That would depend on the things I mentioned in my answer to the first question.

 

What would you expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms?

In a full day program I would expect an actual building with heat, windows, and working phones to be available daily for naps and in case the weather changes.  Even for a part day program with no nap time offered I would still expect access to a building to be there for cold days and at least a covered shelter for nicer days.  For bathroom access I would expect children to have free access to a clean bathroom with at least three stalls, running water, and plenty of soap.  I am not sure what your health codes for childcare facilities are like, but they probably require running water and soap. 

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside?

25 degrees for the lowest and I would expect that they would be very well bundled and not out for extended periods of time. 

 

What percentage of outdoor time vs. indoor time would be ideal for you?  (i.e. 75% of time outside, 25% inside, etc.)

Excluding nap time I would say about 50/50. 

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#10 of 11 Old 10-10-2011, 05:02 PM
 
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I want to start an outdoor preschool as well.  I just need to find someone to do it with me. 

 

Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year?

Yes, yes, Yes!!!

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool?

Nope

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)?

I think these things should be incorporated in playful, game-like, and natural ways.  Sorting, observing, categorizing, measuring are all things that are naturally done outside.  Reading signs, making signs, making lists, keeping a journal, and marching to rhyming and alliterative songs would all be ways to incorporate reading. 

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester?

Either way is fine.

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them?

Personally I would prefer afternoon because my kids sleep in, but logistically it is usually warmer as well.

 

What would you expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms?

I would think a picnic shelter and bathrooms available at least at the beginning and ending of class.  My mother is a supervisor for an outdoor preschool and she does say there is some going in the woods, which I think is a bit inevitable.

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside?

I'm not sure I live in the seattle area so it usually doesn't get below 35.  Which I totally think is fine. 

 

What percentage of outdoor time vs. indoor time would be ideal for you?  (i.e. 75% of time outside, 25% inside, etc.)

I would be fine with 95 - 100% outdoor (for a 2 - 2.5 hr program). 

 


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#11 of 11 Old 10-11-2011, 08:01 AM
 
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Where in Massachusetts are you?  We're in Southern Vermont and I've been looking for something like this for our daughter.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chekhovgirl View Post

Hi, 

 

I've been musing for several years about starting an outdoor preschool program. I'm trying to form more specific goals for this program.  If you wouldn't mind responding to this thread to give me some initial feedback I would greatly appreciate it!

 

Keep in mind: I live in Massachusetts, so it gets cold and icy here!

 

 

Would you enroll your child in a preschool program which is predominantly outside all school year?

absolutely!!

 

Would you enroll them as an alternative to a regular preschool or as a supplement in addition to their regular preschool?

as an alternative to a conventional preschool.

 

Would you want/expect "academics" to a part of this program (reading, math skills, etc.)?

yes.  earth is our best teacher.  i believe in exposing children to various different things, and adding in academics... age-appropriate, though.

 

How many days a week would you be interested in (3-5 years old)?  How many hours?

about three to five days a week, up to 5 or 6 hours.

 

Would you prefer to enroll for a whole year or have the option of only signing up by semester?

signing up by semester gives parents the option of whether or not they want to enroll their child for a whole year.

 

If your child is in half day kindergarten, would you be interested in this as an afternoon program for them?

absolutely.

 

What would you expect in the way of access to shelter and bathrooms?

access to warmth, dry areas.  bathroom isn't a problem.  the outdoors is always an option for our DD, and a composting toilet would work fine too.

 

What would you expect to be the lowest temperature in which children are allowed to remain outside?

depends on the amount of time they will be outside, and how clothed they are.  our DD likes to stay outside for hours in the winter, but we make sure that she is very warm and dry.

 

What percentage of outdoor time vs. indoor time would be ideal for you?  (i.e. 75% of time outside, 25% inside, etc.)

depends on the weather, but 75% outside, 25% indoors sounds just about right.

 

Any other concerns/opinions/ideas?

what the area would look like, and waht is being provided.  what will be encouraged and taught, 

 

Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 



 

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