Photo by Rocky Grimes
We offer a gleefully muddy childhood: one full of play, exploration, and wonder outdoors.
Yes, you heard that right! Tiny Trees is all-outdoors. We partner with public parks to create class spaces that offer children more than the traditional classroom.
The best part is we offer this joyful education to all families, with an equitable approach to financial assistance and a commitment to inclusive, anti-bias practices. Tiny Trees Preschool is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Based in the roots of our vision for equitable, accessible early childhood education, one of the core components of our curriculum is anti-bias work. By celebrating individual children’s interests, cultures, and skills, we seek to create an inclusive learning environment that celebrates difference. Yet, we recognize that simply celebrating difference too often leaves room for bias to develop in young children and deeply impacts young children from marginalized communities. It is thus our goal for our learning environments to model a world where bias is worked against and dominant, privileged culture is de-centered.
We challenge children to become critical thinkers around topics like race, ability, gender, socioeconomic status, biological sex, ethnicity, language and communication, and other identity markers. In doing this work, we seek to elevate the voices and perspectives of those who have not had adequate representation. We do this through books, discussions, puppets, and play in a developmentally appropriate way. According to Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, the four main goals of anti-bias work with young children are:
Identity : Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.
Diversity : Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity; accurate language for human differences; and deep, caring human connections.
Justice : Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
Action : Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.
Our goal is to dive into these topics naturally based on interactions in children’s play, children’s questions, and conversations throughout the school day. Yet, we believe that these subjects are too important to always wait for the subject to emerge from the children. At these times, we very thoughtfully and gently introduce new ideas, activities, and discussion topics to share with the children in our care.
Public parks are a wonderful setting to do this work; children are encouraged to care for the land and people around them and become activists for the community and for a better world. We use principles of place-based education to guide the way that we engage with the park and the social and environmental justice associated with being in this space. Children become stewards for the community and, ultimately, for the people and planet around them.
We believe that children are strong, capable and full of potential. Children learn through play, and nature -whether in the cracks of a sidewalk or in the deep woods, provides an amazing platform for that learning. We implement an anti-bias curriculum in our outdoor classrooms; a proactive approach to helping children to build a more equitable, just world through their interactions with one another. Students and teachers will engage in dialogue in celebration of difference and be challenged to think critically about how they treat one another.
To meet our goals we use a celebrated, evidence based curriculum called High Scope. We chose it because:
1) It has a strong evidence base (they ran the first study on preschool learning 50 yrs ago – the perry preschool project).
2) The City of Seattle recommends it as a standard of quality for their preschool program.
3) It works outdoors. The model is dependent on the quality of the interaction between the teacher and student not props, prepared worksheets or ipads.
High Scope provides a framework for how we deliver high quality education. Nature, our students, our educators, and the community around us provides the filler. Teachers construct opportunities for children based on their needs, interests, and what’s happening in nature. It is the ultimate emergent curriculum.
We aim to measure our quality the Preschool Quality Assessment (PQA) and the Guidelines for Excellence for Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs. We are in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to develop additional standards for outdoor preschools.
Our teachers track student progress by documenting their daily experiences and using reflective practices to support them. Our observations are based on the teaching strategies gold system, which offers developmental milestones and learning objectives. We use these tools to make sure we are meeting the individual need of every student, wherever they are in their learning progression.
We welcome all children and families. Read our non-discrimination policy here.
Learn more at www.WashingtonTribes.org