Nature preschool. Forest school. Nature-based education. Outdoor school. Forest kindergarten. Bush kindy. There are many names for nature-based early childhood education in the US and the rest of the world and often the terms are used interchangeably. While the size, setup, schedule, organization and curricula at these schools vary, they have one thing in common: They are based on the notion that outdoor play is an essential part of childhood and aim to foster children’s connection with nature.
Forest schools originated in Scandinavia already in the 1950s but it would take over half a century before they took off in the U.S. When my first daughter was born in 2008, I could count the number of American nature-based preschools on one hand and the concept was essentially unknown. In the years since, forest schools have gone from obscure outliers to immensely popular alternatives to the prevalent preschool model and in the US alone there are now over one thousand nature-based early childhood education options. While they are still far from mainstream, your chances of finding a nature preschool near you have never been greater!
Find a nature preschool
I know there are a lot of parents who are eager to find outdoor learning opportunities for their children but are having trouble finding nearby options. Fortunately, our friends at Outdoor School Shop (ODSS) have compiled an outdoor school directory for the United States and Canada as a service to our outdoor community. It includes over 1,300 schools in the U.S. and Canada, making it the most comprehensive directory for children’s outdoor educational programs and schools in North America. If you’re an educator, the directory is also a good place to find other nature-based caregivers and preschool teachers to network with. The directory collects a wide range of options in one, easily searchable database. To find a nature preschool near you, you can either browse the map or enter your zip code in the search bar, then select your region from the drop-down menu.
If you’re an outdoor teacher and don’t see your school or program in the directory, or if you find an error, please e-mail ODSS at email@example.com; the directory is revised continuously. You can also read more about different types of outdoor schools at the ODSS blog.