Frequently Asked Questions

Academics and Learning

At Tiny Trees students learn the building blocks for a successful education in reading, math and science plus important executive functions and social skills. Our teachers use a play based curriculum with lots of art and exploration. We celebrate childhood and help kindle a child’s curiosity and wonder.

We read to them
We speak in complex language to them – they hear that words have meaning
We sing together – rhyming, phonetics
We encourage book handling and model writing
Story dictations
Journaling
Cooking
We write in front of children
We use children’s names, the most familiar word to them
We play guessing games involving names, pieces of language and words
Unlimited writing and reading opportunities, in context, self-motivated
We play/use different languages in the classrooms

Our philosophy is a middle path – we teach for academic outcomes and we do so through play, exploration and adventure. 

Counting within context – counting the number of petals in a flower, does every flower have the same number of petals?
Counting children and/or if there is enough of something for everyone
Counting with emotional need (example: counting how many crackers one can have for snack)
Searching for 4 leaf clovers
Having the group lining up for snack by how old you are
Manipulatives – patterns, sizing, grouping
Writing numbers
Role model reading numbers
Snacks – sorting, one-to-one correspondence, table setting
Who’s missing – group names
Scales—more or less
Sorting of materials
Measurement
Songs with counting
Comparing
Pointing out time
Board games

At Tiny Trees every child is a little scientist, testing and exploring the world to understand an important question: How does it work?

Child led exploration
Conduct science experiments – child makes a guess, tests their idea, records the data and reports back to the team
Magnifying glasses
Bug hunting
Stuffed animals
Show and tell
Test surface tension of a mud puddle by pushing a leaf through it
Splashing around
Learning about flowers by pollinating them with paintbrushes
Following a butterfly
Reading about animals in books and then searching for the animals in the forest
Playing with live animals (supervised)
Growing food in a garden
Planting a seed and watching it grow into a tree
Encourage exploration and understanding of the natural world and the scientific processes that make such a diversity of life possible.
Encourage problem-solving and reflection by asking open-ended questions and provide information in response to children’s ideas, insights, and concerns

We teach to the whole child so children enter kindergarten not just ready to learn to read but have the executive functions and social skills for lifelong success.

Emotional and social development is an essential part of preschool. The development of executive functions at an early age are an indicator of success later in life. We focus on skills like empathy, self-help/self-care, coordination, cutting, sitting still, attention span, waiting in line, following directions, sharing, communicating, making friends. We teach the building blocks for being a good human.

Promote social skills and positive self-image through group play and cooperative learning
Mixed aged classrooms where children are teaching each other and holding each other accountable
Culturally rich classrooms with children from different communities sharing and supporting others
Cultivate emotional literacy and empathy to develop self-esteem
Nurture self-expression, creativity and reflection
Encourage family involvement to help students appreciate the wisdom of their first teachers — their families
Peer encouragement
Make choices and experiencing the consequences of choices
Time to work on projects/skills
Develop activities that encourage cognitive growth, problem-solving skills and development of physical motor skills
Making things interesting (active learning), but not entertainment (passive learning – sitting still)
Having children wait in line in context (when there are limited resources, i.e., two sinks and ten kids need to use them)
Provide a supportive, safe learning environment to encourage discovery, questioning and experimentation

Childhood & Nature Preschool

Nature Preschools, also called Forest Kindergartens, originated in northern Europe. Called “Rain or Shine” schools in Norway because they go outside every day regardless of the weather, nature preschools have become wildly popular with over 1,000 schools in Germany alone. Three examples are:

The Eastwood Urban Forest School in London.

This Outdoor Preschool in Norway North of the Arctic Circle.

This Forest Kindergarten in Germany and this nature preschool in Denmark.

See the next tab for information on the benefits of a nature rich education or the Natural Start Alliance to learn about the nature preschool movement in the United States.

At Tiny Trees Preschool children learn academic, emotional and social skills in a nature rich environment. By the time a child graduates from Tiny Trees at the age of 5 they will have spent the majority of their waking lives immersed in the natural world. Some of the developmental benefits of a nature rich classroom are:

Supports creativity, problem solving and cooperation: Studies of children in schoolyards found that children engage in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment, 2006). Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).

Improves academic performance: Studies in the US show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education support significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. Students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27% (American Institutes for Research, 2005).

Enhances cognitive abilities: Proximity to, views of, and daily exposure to natural settings increases children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities (Wells, 2000).

Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms: Contact with the natural world can significantly reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as young as five years old (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).

Increases physical activity: Children who experience school grounds with diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to one another and more creative (Bell and Dyment, 2006).

Improves eyesight: More time spent outdoors is related to reduced rates of nearsightedness, also known as myopia, in children and adolescents (American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011).

Improves social skills: Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005).

Improves impulse control and self-discipline: Access to green spaces, and even a view of green settings, enhances peace, self-control and impulse control within inner city youth, and particularly in girls (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).

Reduces stress: Green plants and vistas reduce stress among highly stressed children. Locations with greater number of plants, greener views, and access to natural play areas show more significant results (Wells and Evans, 2003).

At Tiny Trees Preschool takes place in a magical natural classroom where children receive a joyful childhood, one full of play, exploration and wonder. A childhood full of:

Skipping stones
Cooking mudpies
Jumping waves
Inspecting insects
Catching butterflies
Throwing balls
Flying kites
Building sandcastles
Grass beneath toes
Snow beneath boots
Breeze in the hair
Jumping in high piles of fall leaves
Sunshine on the skin
Raindrops on tongues

For children 3-5 learning and brain development is a hands on, tactile and experiential process where all of the senses are engaged. Little minds learn through music, art and play and everything is connected – it is a true inter-disciplinary education.

Play, music and art are an important element of how we teach both academic outcomes and social and emotional development.

We sing songs together.
We create sculptures out of natural materials that reflect the wilds of our imagination.
Each child shares their art with others and gets to tell a story about it.
We practice call and response (also a tool for behavior management).
We bake mud pies, figure out how many cuts need to be made to give everyone a slice and in the process learn about triangles.
We meet visiting musicians and music teachers.
We tell stories, some with a sing along chorus.
We celebrate the cultural richness and traditions of our neighborhood and have guests share stories, dancing or music.

Things to remember:

Most activities or lessons that you can do in an indoor preschool can be done outdoors.
In addition to natural art materials crayons, construction paper, glue, glitter and all of the wondrous art supplies needed to craft something awesome are available at Tiny Trees too.

Health and Safety

Nature preschools started in Europe and are an old, proven concept. We use the learning from generations of teachers to keep our children warm and dry in a Seattle winter.

In fact kindergarten means “children’s garden” and originally took place outdoors. In Norway over a quarter of kids go to an entirely outdoor preschool like this one; there are 100s of schools in the country (think 4yr olds on snowshoes!!). And in Sweden, Finland and Switzerland (three countries that top the education charts) outdoor preschools are commonplace and publicly funded. In Germany alone there are over 1,000 Forest Kindergartens.

To keep our kids warm and dry we:

Give every child a 1 pc. rainsuit from Oakiwear. With the right layers of clothing underneath kids can stay warm and dry to below freezing temperatures.
Use a play based curriculum that keeps kids moving and warm.
Use park picnic shelters during the worst rain.
Carry extra clothes and help children learn self-care and resilience by managing their own clothing systems.

In extreme weather when schools normally close we are closed as well. In the event of unanticipated weather like a thunderstorm each school has an emergency facility to go to (example: Volunteer Park we go into the water tower).

Things to remember: 

We are only outdoors for a maximum of 4 hrs (half day) or 6 hours (full day). That is less time than the average American spends in front of a screen daily.
Children do not have the same anxiety about future weather that adults do. For a child rain means puddles to spash in, snow means snow man building and wind means leaf tossing wonder.
Global warming may have caused the jet stream to move, which means warmer and drier winters in the northwest.

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Outdoor preschools have been shown to be healthier than indoor spaces. People get sick from people not from dirt, trees or getting cold. Indoor surfaces collect human germs and the recirculated air passes colds and flus. In addition our play based curriculum leads to healthier and more physically active children and adults. For example, if every child touches a set of blocks indoors those blocks become the carrier for germs while sticks and leaves in the outdoors are free of human bugs.

To keep our kids healthy we use the following:

Mobile hand washing stations that children are required to use after they use the bathroom, before snacks and after touching anything really icky (like banana slugs!).
Hand sanitizer when needed (like before activities that involves touching shared objects during flu season).
Take frequent snack and water breaks, especially during the summer.
Teach putting on sunscreen in creative ways (like face painting!).
Teachers carry spare clothes and clean up kits in case of potty accidents.

Children will be required to be vaccinated unless they have a religious exception (personal exceptions – like the mistaken belief that vaccines cause autism are not recognized). One of our core values is evidence based practice and vaccines are proven to be safe for the child and to provide a safe and healthy environment for all children.

At Tiny Trees physical and emotional safety is one of our core values. We keep our children safe in an outdoor classroom by:

Having a low adult to child ration of 1:5. Each classroom is 16 children, 2 teachers and 1 adult volunteer or student intern (our official student to licensed teacher ratio is 1:8). The average ratio for preschools (and the one required by the City of Seattle) is 1:10.
Have children wear matching yellow Oakiwear rain suits in the cooler months and matching yellow T-shirts in the warmer months.
Requiring that children stay in sight and sound of their teachers at all times.
Teachers constantly counting and making sure children stay close.
Giving children clear physical boundaries: “Stay on the grass island,” “boots on trail, no one in front of teacher Teddy.”
Holding hands
Singing songs together when travelling between activities to keep kids focused on their teacher.
Limiting outside adult to child interactions, when encountering the public teachers talk to adults first.
Only allowing pickup by designated family members.
Using pickup and drop off locations that are safe, have ample parking and low traffic risk.

We are exploring the use of wearable GPS tracking devices (think an ankle bracelet or a chip in your child’s rain suit). No other preschool we talk to does this, if you have an opinion on way or another on this subject please contact us and share your thoughts.

Our risk management protocols are based on those used by outdoor preschools in Europe and North America and will be reviewed and improved regularly by our risk management committee. Our preschool teachers will be licensed, trained extensively in outdoor preschool models and wilderness first aid.

Things to remember:

Most preschools go outside for a portion of their day, many to local public parks where they use it as an outdoor classroom.
We use parks during the least busy time of the day: morning to afternoon on a weekday.
In many cases the perceived risk of being outdoors in higher than the actual risk.

Children are required to be potty trained when they start at Tiny Trees Preschool and bathroom facilities are available at all of our sites. Using the bathroom in a clean and healthy way is an important part of a preschool education.

Existing bathrooms at potential parks that are deemed clean, safe and acceptable and that meet licensing standards are used by children. At sites where bathrooms do not meet our standards we rent bathrooms.

At all bathrooms:

A teacher goes in first to make sure the bathroom is clean and set up for children’s use (foot stool under the sink or tiny seat added to toilet).
Teachers wait outside to make sure no one else enters and to respond to potty emergencies.
Teacher supervises hand washing.
Teacher has spare clothes and clean up kits in case of potty accidents.
Our rain suits have a zipper from the shoulder to the knee to make getting out to use the bathroom easier.

Eating and Sleeping

Yes! Read about our plan in this post: Hot Lunch At Tiny Trees.

Childhood is hungry work and here at Tiny Trees we make sure every child enjoys healthy, local food. To support working families we are partnering with FareStart to provide warm lunches that meet Michelle Obama’s nutrition standards at an additional cost of $3.80 a day at all of our full day preschools. For any family receiving financial aid or scholarship lunches will be provided free of charge.

We currently require families to provide their own snack but do provide snack for children receiving financial aid. Our preference for snacks are foods that are low-glycemic (no sugar, starches), high in fiber, high in fat and protein and don’t require a refrigerator. Vegetables, healthy oils, nut butters, high fiber fruits (like apples), cheeses and spreads like hummus are common. See the next tab for how we keep children with food allergies safe.

Some schools may have a garden element where children get to grow their own food (two possibilities are the Jefferson Park Food Forest on Beacon Hill and the Pathfinder Elementry Green Belt in Delridge).

Food allergies are easily managed at Tiny Trees. Since each classroom is self contained the potential exposure to allergens like peanuts, dairy and gluten is easily managed. When you enroll you will be asked to inform us about any food allergies. Systems we then activate are:

Teachers are notified of food allergies and for severe allergies that food is eliminated from the classroom (i.e. all kids are no longer allowed to bring peanuts in their lunches if there is a nut allergy – parents are provided with substitutes – i.e. sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter).
If that child is receiving lunch from our caterer/food service partner they are informed and that allergen is removed.*
When a parent checks in their child in the morning the short intake form requires the teacher to acknowledge they have read about your child’s allergy and confirm that allergy with you.
Substitute teachers are required to read a fact sheet on the children in their class and have a safety check in with the staff prior to class which covers allergies and medications.
Teachers carry benadryl (anti-histamine) in a first aid kit and are trained how to administer epinephrine (epi-pens) in case of an emergency.

Things to remember:

Exposure to mild allergens like dust and pollen in the outdoors at an early age may prevent more severe allergies developing later in life.

*Please note for complex combinations of food allergies and dietary restrictions we may ask you to pack your child’s lunch. For example if your child has a vegan diet and is sensitive to wheat, dairy and soy we may not be able to provide snack and lunch that meets their nutritional needs.

Nap time at the Chippewa Nature Preschool - Photo by Erin Soper

Nap time @ Chippewa Nature Preschool – Photo Erin Soper

Half day, 4 hr programs will not have nap time.

When you complete your enrollment you will be asked to list any medications and the schedule. We will then activate the following system:

Teachers are notified and can administer medication at the required time (like during meals).
When a parent checks in their child in the morning the short intake form requires the teacher to acknowledge they have read about your child’s medication and when it needs to be administers and confirms that information with you.
Substitute teachers are required to read a fact sheet on the children in their class and have a safety check in with the staff prior to class which covers allergies and medications.
Teachers carry benadryl (anti-histamine) & child dose ibu-profen in a first aid kit and are trained how to administer epinephrine (epi-pens) in case of an emergency. You medical form will ask if our teachers have permission to administer which or all of these medications if needed.

Behavior Management & Emotional Safety

Emotional and physical safety is a core value of Tiny Trees Preschool. We create emotionally safe environments for every child that are caring, supportive and healthy. We do this by creating clear expectations for how we treat each other, giving reasons why that children understand and holding children accountable for meeting those expectations. We use:

Role modeling
Giving reasons
Expressing our own feelings
Admitting our own mistakes
Acknowledging feelings
Caring for animals and plants
Using an authentic voice
Teachable moments, putting a lesson into context
Teach the golden rule – “do on to others…”
Having high expectations for how people are treated here

Large group experiences
Reasonable expectations clearly explained and consistently enforced
Cooking
Handling animals safely
Within context of safety
Having reasonable requests or rules
Experiencing consequences
Being clear between requests and directions

Teach respect (see previous question)
Be clear with expectations, be consistent in how students are held accountable for meeting expectations and follow through to the end
Put discipline in the context of a child’s relationship with others
Help develop empathy by having a child articulate how they would feel if the roles were reversed (we teach the golden rule)
Communicating clearly and often with parents about their child’s needs and/or behavior
Being clear about expectations
Seeing good in all children
Making up with children after you have had trouble/starting fresh
Accommodating personal needs and listening to a child’s voice

Our Teachers

The greatest indicator of quality preschool is quality teachers. We invest in our teachers in the following ways:

All lead teachers are required to have a degree in early childhood education or equivalent.
All teachers are licensed by the state.
All teachers go through a national background check and child abuse prevention training.
Prior to the first day of classes all teachers complete two weeks of training in the outdoor delivery of the High Scope curriculum, use of our student assessment and tracking system Teaching Strategies GOLD and risk management in an outdoor classroom.
Teachers receive 10 days of ongoing training annually.
Teachers and each individual preschool are evaluated for quality by the Early Achievers system and the results are posted as public record for families.
We hire great educators who are loving and caring, can create an emotionally and physically safe space and are passionate about being a mentor for children.

Our teachers are mentored and supervised by our operations director (to be hired in September, 2015) and may receive additional training and support from City or State agencies.

Our priority is to hire full time teachers with benefits and invest in them for long term success. We will be hiring our teachers in spring of 2016.

We believe licensing is a foundation for creating safe and healthy spaces for our children. All of our teachers will be licensed by the Department of Early Learning.

Tiny Trees is also seeking to be the first licensed outdoor preschool in Washington State. Our goal is for all of our full day preschools to be licensed. Some of our half day sites may not be licensed (licensing is not required for half day programs and most outdoor preschools are not licensed) but will follow the same quality standards.

Our teachers will be tracking student progress using teaching strategies gold. This helps them make sure they are meeting the individual need of every student no matter where they are in their learning progression.

We aim to measure our quality through the Early Achievers system developed by the University of Washington and used by Seattle’s new Preschool Program (prop 1b). This allows us to measure the quality of each school in a transparent way that is public record for parents.

Cost & Financial Aid

Tiny Trees makes preschool affordable for families by eliminating the cost of building a child care facility. Instead of spending our money on bricks and mortar we spend it on what matters: great teachers.

Prices are still to be determined. Prices will be announced in fall of 2015. We estimate that for full day (6hr) preschool our prices will be 20-25% below market rate.

Payment can be monthly or bi-monthly and a deposit of the first month will be required.

One way Tiny Trees is working to make preschool affordable is by qualifying as a provider for the City of Seattle’s Preschool Program (prop 1b) and WA State’s Early Childhood Educations Assistance Program (ECEAP).

How will the universal preschool initiative that just passed impact Tiny Trees?
Tiny Trees is launching now with the goal to eventually be a provider of high quality preschool under the recent initiative (prop 1b). To do this we will work with the state to have Tiny Trees licensed as a preschool, are using the High Scope curriculum and will work with the city to meet the Early Achievers quality standards needed to qualify. Families that make $143,000 or less for a family of 4 will qualify for a subsidy of at least $6,000. Families that make 300% of poverty ($72,000 for a family of 4) will receive the maximum subsidy of $10,800. That will pay for year round preschool (including summer) at Tiny Trees.

One way Tiny Trees is working to make preschool affordable is by qualifying as a provider for the City of Seattle’s Preschool Program (prop 1b) and WA State’s Early Childhood Educations Assistance Program (ECEAP). If your family makes less than $143,000 a year for a family of 4 you may qualify for one of these subsidies.

How will the preschool for all initiative that just passed in Seattle impact Tiny Trees Preschools?
Tiny Trees is launching now with the goal to eventually be a provider of high quality preschool under the recent initiative (prop 1b). To do this we will work with the state to have Tiny Trees licensed as a preschool, are using the High Scope curriculum and will work with the city to meet the Early Achievers quality standards needed to qualify. Families that make $143,000 or less for a family of 4 will qualify for a subsidy of at least $6,000. Families that make 300% of poverty ($72,000 for a family of 4) will receive the maximum subsidy of $10,800. That will pay for year round preschool (including summer) at Tiny Trees.

How does the State’s subsidized preschool (ECEAP) for low income families work?
Tiny Trees aims to qualify as a provider for Washington State’s ECEAP program. This program gives $7,500 to pay for the lowest income children (families that make <$28,000 for a family of 4) to go to full time preschool.

Additional financial aid?

Tiny Trees may offer additional financial aid for families. Our financial aid plan will be determined by the amount and scope of our city (prop 1b) and state (ECEAP) subsidies.

Tiny Trees is building the foundation to start 6 preschool in 2016. Currently families can enroll to cast a vote on where we should locate our first preschools and reserve a spot if a school opens in their neighborhood. Only 96 spaces will be available city wide for our first year.

In the fall of 2015 we will announce which parks have been selected. Families that have enrolled will then receive an information packet with in depth information on Tiny Trees and each preschool site. We may during that time also have a sample day or open house. Enrolled families will then have the opportunity to complete their enrollment for 2016 and pay a deposit. 30 days after that time enrollment will open to new families (anyone who has not pre-enrolled).

There has been high demand and we expect to fill most of our initial class of 96 students from families that enroll in 2015.

Where? When? & How Long?

Tiny Trees is building the foundation to start 6 preschool in 2016. Currently families can enroll to cast a vote on where we should locate our first preschools and reserve a spot if a school opens in their neighborhood. Only 96 spaces will be available city wide for our first year.

Our plan is to open additional schools in 2017 and 2018. Neighborhoods we are looking at are: Shoreline, Renton, Tukwila, Burien, Kent, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Redmond & Kirkland.

Our goal is to start 20 preschools in parks across Pierce, King and Snohomish counties by 2020.

Tiny Trees is opening 6 year round preschools in 2016. We may open in June or September depending on the location. Preschools will offer a combination of the following:

Half Day – 3 or 4hrs (9am to 1pm or 1pm to 4pm)
– Tue, Thur or
– Mon, Wed, Fri or
– Mon to Friday

Full Day – 6 hrs (9am to 3pm)
– Mon to Friday

Optional indoor after care (3pm – 6pm) at some full day preschools.

Preschool is offered year round and matches the Seattle Public Schools calendar for school year breaks. Our summer school runs through July and August.

Our goal is to make preschool affordable and accesible for families. Providing full day preschool in Seattle and after care is important for working families. We are currently exploring partnerships with the Associated Recreation Council and others about providing indoor after care. When you enroll you can cast a vote on if full day preschool w/ after care is a priority for you. After care will only be available at locations that offer full day preschool and have a provider.

An example: Students would complete 6 hours of academic preschool with Tiny Trees. At the end students receiving after care would walk with their teacher to a child care facility operated by our partners. They would receive child care until 6 pm when they would be picked up by their families. Our priority is on finding facilities that are inside or neighboring to parks to avoid transportation.

We are proud to offer summer school for families during July and August. The exact schedule is still to be determined but families would be able to sign up for weekly or monthly preschool with a priority for families who are enrolled in our year round program.

Tiny Trees Preschool is for children 3 to 5 years old.

Children must be 3 years old by August 31st of the starting year (that means if your child turns three before a September start date.

Children must be potty trained.

Adult family members must be committed to bring their child for preschool rain or shine (no staying home if you think its going to rain).