Why Outdoor Preschool? A Scientist Reflects on Her Child’s Education at Tiny Trees

By Bridget Ferriss, PhD
Mother of a Tiny Trees student

My son has a collection of golf balls. He brings these balls home from his outdoor preschool, having retrieved them from nearby bushes. The scientist parent in myself was hoping to find pockets full of leaves, insects, rocks, or other natural wonders – but the golf balls have persisted.

We sent my son to an outdoor preschool this year for several reasons.

  1. We wanted him to be happy. I know I’m happy when I’m outside, and numerous studies and philosophies have provided us with the explanations of this phenomenon.
  2. We wanted him to retain a sense of connection with the greater world; A connection that is the basis for empathy, wonder, and comfort.
  3. It sounded like something I would have loved to do, and it reflects the experiences from my childhood that led to a career in science.

As a kid, I had a collection of skulls, crab shells, porcupine quills, and other dead animal parts. Thanks to family camping trips and living near the ocean, I enjoyed exploring forests and peering below the water’s surface. Looking back, these consistent opportunities to explore nature put me on the path to environmental science.

My son is on his own path with his golf ball collection. I don’t know where he is headed but I gain satisfaction from watching him read a book, while perched on a log in his full body rain gear. He seems as comfortable there as he is on the couch in our living room. He’s engaged. He inquisitive. He’s happy.

Bridget is a marine ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a parent of a Tiny Trees student.

 

 

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