Sunday, August 8, 2010

Preschools in Forests

When they're outside, the children in Erin Kenny's class don't head for cover if it rains or snows. They stay right where they are — in a private five-acre forest. It's their classroom, a free-flowing romp through cedar and Douglas fir on Vashon Island in Puget Sound.

The unique "forest kindergarten" at Cedarsong Nature School is among several that have opened in recent years in the U.S., part of movement that originated in Europe to get kids out from in front of televisions and into the natural world.

"American children do not spend much time outdoors anymore," Kenny says. "There's a growing need and an awareness on parents' part that their children really need to do more connecting with nature."

Kenny opened Cedarsong's doors in 2008, starting out with five children. She plans to expand the school to five days a week next year. Kenny says there's a growing waiting list.

For Kenny, the preschool is a culmination of years of working with children and a love for the outdoors. She used to be a lawyer, but was inspired to start her school after reading Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods."

In the book, Louv coined the phrase "nature-deficit disorder" to explain a lack of connection between the country's children and nature. He argues that the decrease in nature dwelling leads to a rise in childhood obesity, attention disorders and depression. Read the entire article.

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