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12 Preschools That Take Learning Outside

Outdoor preschool. Sounds lovely…if you live in Hawaii. But outdoor preschool in our rainy climate? Nuts, right? Not necessarily. In fact, it may be just the thing your child needs. Heck. How many times did you daydream of romping around outside while sitting at your desk in school? Probably too many times to count. So throw on your rain gear, open your mind, and check out some of the nature-based preschools taking root in Seattle.

Forest Kindergarten - Seattle

Outdoor Preschools

The following schools are entirely outdoors. With proper clothing, children can thrive in an outdoor environment, no matter the weather. As they say at Cedarsong, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices.”

Cedarsong Nature Preschool
Cedarsong, on Vashon Island, is based on the German model of Waldkindergartens, or outdoor preschools. A leader in the field, they were the first school of this kind in the US. Many teachers at other outdoor preschools completed their teacher training here. Cedarsong’s curriculum is based on interest-led flow learning, emergent curriculum, place-based focus, inquiry-based teaching style and authentic play.

P.O. Box 2845
Vashon, Wa 98070
206-708-5945
Onlinecedarsongnatureschool.org

Field and Forest Outdoor Preschool
Located on five acres in Woodinville, this program is also based on the German forest garden model. Rather than provide commercial toys with a predefined purpose, children in this program play with items found or fashioned from objects in nature. They hold story-time in an impressive 18 foot tipi (pictured below!).

20140 137th Avenue NE
Woodinville, Wa 98072
425-424-0800
Onlineatticoutdoorpreschool.org

field-and-forest-tipi

Froggy Holler
This school is run through the Shoreline Parks Department, using Shoreline Parks as their classroom, so kids are constantly exploring different environments. Take a peek at their blog to see what kind of adventures the kids are up to every week. For example, during Twin Ponds week, they saw a variety of water fowl, went down a slide in the rain, jumped in puddles, and explored their five senses.

206-801-2600
Onlinefroggyholler.blogspot.com

Fox in the Forest
Children in this Bothell program learn about nature and food and get to nibble edible plants from the forest and the garden. A great option if you’re looking for flexible scheduling. Enroll for 1-3 days a week or for a single class.

4026 224th Street SE
Bothell, Wa 98021
425-368-8170
Onlinefoxintheforest.com

Nature-Centered Schools

If all outside/all the time isn’t your little one’s cup of tea, there are plenty of programs that combine traditional indoor school with a daily dose of outdoor time and a nature-centered curriculum.

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Natural Start
At Natural Start, they balance nature education with with traditional kindergarten prep activities. They teach weekly nature-based themes, and the kids get plenty of outside time. They balance that with indoor activities focusing on socialization in the classroom environment, holding pencils and scissors correctly, and recognizing basic letters and numbers. The best of both worlds!

Two Bellevue locations:

9825 Northeast 24th Street
Bellevue, Wa 98004
425-891-0764
Onlinenaturalstartpreschool.com

14509 SE Newport Way
Bellevue, Wa 98006
425-233-4480
Onlinenaturalstartpreschool.com

Polliwog Preschool
The Polliwog philosophy is to develop mind, body and heart with core curriculum areas of science, art, music, math, language and literacy. Located at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center in Bellevue, children go on daily explorations of the 320 acre nature park.

1625 118th Avenue SE
Bellevue, Wa 98005
206-443-2925
Onlinepacificsciencecenter.org/Mercer-Slough/polliwog-preschool

Farrel McWhirter Preschool
Run by the City of Redmond’s parks department, children spend more than half of each day outside, and have access to the park’s forest, trails, meadows, and farm. Animal lovers will enjoy spending time at the working farm on site, home to horses, cows, goats, chickens and pigs.

19545 NE Redmond Road
Redmond, Wa 98073
425-556-2324
Onlineredmond.gov/ParksRecreation/Farrel-McWhirterPreschool

Discovery Park Nature Kids
Offered through the Seattle Parks Department, this preschool is located in beautiful Discovery Park. Kids visit different areas of the park throughout the seasons. The play-based curriculum focuses on creative arts, math, science, and language arts. Every day includes both an art/craft project and a movement activity.

3801 Discovery Park Boulevard
Seattle, Wa 98199
206-386–4236
Onlineseattle.gov/discoverypark/preschool.htm

nature-start-hiking

Parent and Tot Nature Programs

In addition to drop-off preschools, there are several nature programs for tots and their caregivers that run year-round.

Tales and Trails
Tales and Trails at the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center has programs for 1-3 year olds and 4-5 year olds. Classes include stories, songs and a short (< 1 mile) exploration on the Seward Park trails.

5902 Lake Washington Blvd South
Seattle, Wa 98118
206-652-2444 x105
Onlinesewardpark.audubon.org

Fiddleheads Forest School
This school focuses on exploring the Arboretum using your senses, and includes visits to the vegetable garden. Sign up for individual classes or a 6 class series exploring a unique theme. Upcoming themes include: Owls, Animal Tracks and Homes, and Signs of Spring.

2300 Arboretum Drive East
Seattle, Wa 98112
206-221-6427
Onlinedepts.washington.edu/nature_preschool.shtml

Forest Kindergarten

Tadpole Tots
This program is designed for 2-4 year olds at Mercer Slough Nature Park. Classes meet Thursday afternoons for eight-week sessions based around a theme. Each theme includes unique activities, songs, play acting, and puppets.

1625 118th Avenue SE
Bellevue, Wa 98005
206-443-2925
Onlinepacificsciencecenter.org/Mercer-Slough/tadpole-tots

Parent Child Adventures 
In addition to their outdoor preschool, Fox in the Forest offers “Parent Child Adventures” on Thursday mornings for parents and children to explore together. Ages 18 months – 5 years. Classes are 2.5 hours, but shorter classes are also available at a slightly reduced rate.

4026 224th Street SE
Bothell, Wa 98021
425-368-8170
Onlinefoxintheforest.com

Know of any nature-based schools that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

–Heidi Unruh

Photo credit: Allison Sutcliffe, Field and Forest Outdoor Preschool, Natural Start Preschool, Fiddleheads Forest School

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