Young children’s minds are like sponges. They absorb just about everything – good and bad. They pick up on things around them that we as adults, don’t even notice sometimes. Input from the world around them shapes young children’s lives, shapes who they become as adults, and more importantly – how they live.
That concept is what lead to Dawn Maxwell creating a preschool that teaches children to lead a healthy lifestyle, while embracing nature and having fun. Maxwell, ,a mother of 4, said, “I just thought it would work. Their minds are so observant.” The Green House in Oklahoma City uses all natural cleaners, rags instead of paper towels, eco-friendly toys, and only serves vegan, organic, gluten-free food. Whatever food is left over is recycled or composted. Dawn also teaches her students, ranging range in age from 3 to 6, how to garden. David Centola, whose daughter Clara attends The Green House, said he chose the school after visiting several other options. Ultimately, Centola chose The Green House because of its focus on teaching children about the environment.
Maxwell isn’t the only educator that believes in the benefits of learning sustainable lifestyle habits early. According to the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Natural Start Alliance, there are roughly 80 nature-based preschools across the country. Some schools are taking basic steps towards a more environmentally friendly approach, while others have their entire curriculum based around nature. For example, Sunflower Preschool in Boulder, Colorado teaches children about recycling, composting, and gardening. The school’s outlined, “We feel that anything that can be learned inside, can also be learned outside. We let them be self-guided.”
Peter J. Pizzolongo, a representative for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, says that the determining factor behind the trend of nature-based education is the parents. “If it is something that families value, then they’re going to seek that out. Largely, the movement within the school is recycling, reuse and alternate use, and cutting back on a lot of using of plastics and things that are thrown away.”
With the change in focus, comes a slight change in price among most of the nature-based preschools. But, for the parents that are passionate about the nature-focused practices of these preschools, the difference is worth the cost. It is never too early to start cultivating good habits and practices in children, especially since they will some day be the stewards of the planet. Teaching them how to take care of it now, will eventually lead to a cleaner, greener planet.