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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Go outside to play -- and learn

Kindergarteners learn outdoors -- including time in the "magical forest" -- for most of the school day at a school in Quebec, reports Edutopia. It gets cold in the winter. They bundle up.

The pandemic spurred interest in nature-based preschools and kindergartens, reports Hechinger's Jackie Mader.

"Spending time in nature can benefit young children: Research shows it can improve academic performance, reduce symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, improve mental health and promote physical activity and the development of motor skills, among other things."

Forest Preschoolers play and explore in Baltimore's Leakin Park. Photo: Jackie Mader/Hechinger Reportk.

Outdoor learners are just as ready for elementary school as those who've attended traditional preschools some research shows, Mader writes. "A report on Washington state’s outdoor preschool pilot found children in one program experienced fewer incidents of challenging behavior when they attended preschool outdoors, and the prevalence of childhood obesity was reduced for children in another program."

"Five states have introduced legislation or established pilot programs to support outdoor learning" for young children, she writes. Currently, regulations make it hard for nature programs to be licensed unless they have a physical building. Most "are run as mostly private, half-day programs — drawing in children from higher-income families, most of whom are white."

Baltimore's Carrie Murray Nature Center operates the Forest Preschool in Leakin Park. Director Monica French said her biggest fear when children leave for kindergarten “isn’t that they won’t have their writing skills, but that they’re going to go sit behind a desk all day long.”

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