05 May Gov. Jay Inslee Signs Outdoor Preschool Legislation

Bill Allows For Full-Day
Outdoor Preschools

May 4, 2017

Olympia, WA—Washington just became the first state in the country to license outdoor preschools.

Governor Jay Inslee signed into law SB 5357, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), to create a pilot that will develop and evaluate health & safety rules for the growing number of outdoor preschools in Washington.

Outdoor preschools participating in the pilot will be able to:

• Offer full-day classes, which are important for working families

• Expand access to affordable, high-quality early learning programs for children in poverty and families who don’t make a lot of money.

• Provide more data on the benefits of outdoor, nature-based classrooms for Washington’s children and families.

The pilot project runs from August 2017 through June 2021.

“This is an exciting moment for all of our families here at Tiny Trees,” said CEO Andrew Jay, “The reality today is that in most families, both parents have to work. They need full-day care for their child. This bill makes finding a full-day program easier, provides an affordable and safe choice, and best of all gives kids an awesome childhood: one full of play, adventure, and wonder in the great outdoors.”

Tiny Trees has four outdoor classrooms in Seattle that are made possible through an innovative partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation. Three additional classrooms open in September, including Cougar Mountain Wildland Park (Bellevue/Renton), Big Finn Hill Park (Kirkland/Bothell), and the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle.

In addition to enabling full-day programs, the bill is a recognition that outdoor preschools can be safe and healthy for kids. “This winter I tracked how often children would get sick or injured at indoor preschools vs. outdoor preschools,” said Hannah Frenkel, M.S. Epidemiology Candidate at the University of Washington, “and I found no differences in either health outcome by type of preschool.”

SB 5357 also offers families an affordable choice. “Here at Tiny Trees we have found that by removing the cost of a brick and mortar facility we can keep tuition prices low,” said CEO Andrew Jay, “That’s big for all families, but especially those who make too much to qualify for government help, and not enough to afford a quality education for their child.”

By not spending money on a building, outdoor preschools can also invest in the most important factor for quality: great teachers.

Learn more about
Washington’s outdoor preschools

• Watch children play, explore, and learn at Orcas Island Forest School (video).

• Read this letter from a pediatrician about the health benefits he observed in children attending outdoor preschools in Cle Elum & Ellensburg, WA.

• Read this this Hechinger Report article on how outdoor preschools can help reduce inequality in access to high quality preschool.

• Read this study by Children’s Hospital that found kids in child care spend only 12% of their time being physically active, well below the minimum necessary to develop healthy bodies and healthy brains.

People available for comment

Primary Sponsor: Senator Kevin Ranker (D–Orcas Island)
Dave Pringle, dave.pringle@leg.wa.gov

Tiny Trees Preschool, seven locations in Seattle & King County Parks
Andrew Jay, Chief Executive Officer, andrew@tinytrees.org

Washington Nature Preschool Association
Kit Harrington, kith@uw.edu, Director, Fiddleheads Forest School, UW Botanic Gardens

Orcas Island Forest School, Eastsound, WA
Heidi Bruce, Board President & mother, heidigbruce@gmail.com

Washington Outdoor School, 2 Schools in Ellensburg & Roslyn, WA
Sibyl Maer-Fillo, Founder & teacher, walkinbeautyyoga@gmail.com

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