What is the difference between an outdoor preschool and a more traditional preschool? An outdoor preschool - or forest preschool - has many of the same goals and routines as a more traditional preschool. We focus on developmentally-appropriate early childhood eduction, but we do it outdside. During the school day, we have circle time where we share songs, stories, and snack. We also have time to build with sticks, jump in puddles, and explore trails. Along with developing gross and fine motor skills, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills, nature awareness is woven into our daily experience. The outdoor classroom provides abundant oppurtunities for play, imagination, personal growth, and connection to nature. For more information about the benefits of outdoor preschool, please check out these articles by the North American Association for Environmental Education, The New York Times, and The Atlantic.
What is play-based learning? Play is the work of the child. While children's games may sometimes seem trivial to adults, it is through play that the child learns about themselves and the world around them. Play involves complex activities such as symbolic thought, problem-solving, emotional regulation, pre-literacy, and socialization. In Pathfinders, we allow ample time for children to explore their world through play. Teachers provide oppurtunities for discovery and follow the children where their curiosity leads them. Play-based learning is not new and is now supported by a growing body of research. More information regarding the research behind play-based learning can be found in this article by Concordia University.
What is the enrollment process? Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. In February, enrollment will open for current students who wish to return in September. In late February, teachers begin contacting new families who have completed applications. Teachers meet with each family individually to review their application and ensure a good fit for the program.
What kind of gear will my child need? Being well-prepared and well-dressed will greatly enhance your child's enjoyment of the program. Afterall, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing! Please Visit our Parent Resources page and download our list detailing what to pack for your child.
What about hazards such as poison oak, ticks, etc.? In Pathfinders, safety is our top priority. Our teachers are well-trained to assess risks in the natural environment and work with children to navigate these risks. We teach children how to identify plants such as poinson oak, as well as how to be safe with their bodies. Additionally, preparation is the best prevention. Making sure your child is dressed properly, in sturdy outdoor play clothes and good shoes, will protect them from many of the most common hazards. Sun hats, suncreen, long pants, natural bug spray, and a bath after class are all encouraged.
My child has special needs (language, behavioral, diet), can you work with us? All of our teachers have extensive training and experience working with a diverse array of students. We want Pathfinders to be accessible to all students and we work closely with families that may have special needs. Please reach out to us if you have questions about how we can best serve your child and family.
Does my child need to be potty trained? Yes. All children must be out of diapers when they start the preschool program. Because our classroom is outside, we do not have the facilities to change and dispose of diapers in a sanitary manner. We understand that accidents happen, and work with each child in their toilet learning process.
Do I need to bring a carseat for my child? No. Pathfinders provides car seats. We have several different set-ups for different aged children. The teachers will be happy to show you the car seat set ups during the enrollment process.