A Big Win: Sustainable Seattle Honors Tiny Trees Preschool With a Leadership Award

sustainable-seattle award photo

Tiny Trees is an idea, a concept that has fed people’s imagination, tickled their curiosity and given hope to families looking for affordability, academic quality and a real childhood. On Friday night this idea won its second award this time from Sustainable Seattle for “Tiny Trees Preschool’s innovative approach to making outdoor preschool education affordable for a wide range of families” (see all the winners here).

This award comes 20 months before our first tiny rubber boots will splash down in mud puddles across Seattle; which makes me ask the question: what is it about the Tiny Trees idea that has inspired so many? Here are a few reasons, based on what I have heard from the 181 families that have enrolled so far and from teachers and community leaders.

Affordable academic quality: Preschool is expensive, for families and for policy makers (and the tax payers who make the policies possible). Tiny Trees Preschool seeks to lower the costs of early childhood education by both eliminating the expensive building and by operating at scale. This means as Tiny Trees grows we help family and government budgets stretch further. This also means families that traditionally could not afford all day preschool now can, either through Tiny Trees low prices and financial aid or through government subsidies like Seattle’s prop 1b (if we are selected as a provider).

Giving kids the childhood they deserve: So many parents have shared how they want their son or daughter to have a joyful, playful and wondrous childhood. At the same time researchers have been showing how a childhood rich in kid-directed exploration, risk taking and outdoor play can make kids smarter, healthier and happier (One example is this feature in YES! Magazine on forest kindergartens). Once they enter school children will have 16 years sitting in a chair (or over 24 yrs if your little scientist decides to become a big scientist, Phd) so it makes sense to give them a few years of playful adventure now, especially if it turns out to be the best way for them to learn how to be successful students later on.

Emotional and social literacy: One of the greatest benefit of preschool for children is the emotional and social development that results from great teachers creating safe and welcoming spaces for children to lead, share and learn about others. Commonly these skills are called executive functions (best described in this video from Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child) and have been seen by policy makers and researchers to be the most important part of a preschool education. Recently the provost of the University of Washington shared how only 11% of low-income students who enter UW graduate. That is a sad, low number and it can be safely assumed that the 11% who made it had high executive functions like perseverance, impulse control and grit that helped them overcome the considerable obstacles they faced on their road to graduation. Tiny Trees provides an opportunity for even more children to gain these essential life skills.

Sustainable Seattle, the organizer of the eco-networking event Green Drinks and the upcoming Kids Outside Awards, seeks to create a resilient community with a healthy and sustainable future. By giving this award to a start up like Tiny Trees they are celebrating this project as one way to build the livable and thriving city we all desire. Walking onto the stage to accept this award I felt immense gratitude for all of the people who have put their faith and actions into this idea. In three months Tiny Trees Preschool has grown into a movement one ally at a time. Thank you Sustainable Seattle for cheering us on.

By Andrew Jay – CEO of Tiny Trees Preschool – andrew@tinytrees.org

 

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