Preschoolers spend approximately four hours a day looking at a screen. Many people feel that is making them disconnected from a lot of activities, including spending time outdoors. However, a local school is taking a vastly different approach, requiring two-thirds of every school day to be outside and that children get ample time to explore.
Beneath the morning sun, even on the coldest of days, you will find students at Ijams Outdoor Preschool taking advantage of everything the great outdoors has to offer. Each morning, the children, ages 3-5, head outdoors for a morning full of imagination.
The idea is to help children feel a connection and curiosity about nature at a very young age.
“We slow down we breathe the air. We enjoy the environment. We enjoy being outside in nature and I think that’s an important thing we need to foster for our kids,” said lead teacher Leslee Moore.
This program also helps promote independence. Unstructured time is very important and really, the only rules are to be safe and be respectful of each other and the land.
“It’s really stewardship that I think we teach here, and it goes on all the way to adulthood,” said Moore.
The program has only been around since August, so the long-term impacts have not been determined. Right now, it’s clear the students are learning while having fun.
Moore is a former park ranger and Montessori teacher. She says the school’s outdoor focus actually helps the students focus more when they are in the classroom.
“The fact that they are out in nature those first two hours, they are able to focus that much better when we get in the classroom and they are ready to learn,” said Moore.
Right now, students meet two days a week, but the response from both parents and students has been tremendous.
“We hope to expand to elementary next, full day, full year, and who knows. It could grow as much as people wanted it to,” Moore said.
Moore went on to say that parents are reporting their kids can’t wait to go to school each day, and that the students are already learning to be great stewards of the land.
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