VASHON ISLAND, Wash. - A preschool on Vashon Island offers a unique classroom experience, without the classroom.
Cedarsong Nature School is a place where kids are expected to run around all day and come home soaking wet and covered in mud. They have a place to go to the bathroom and an amazing forest canopy for a roof, but no walls.
“We have no indoor spaces here,” explained Director Erin Kenny, who started the school five years ago.
Since then it has gone from a few students a few times a week to a year-around program that operates entirely outdoors.
Kenny said she consults with the parents to make sure their children have the right clothing to be comfortable outdoors, even in freezing temperatures and heavy rain. Once that is taken of, she said, the children are ready to learn and play in the woods.
On Tuesday the kids were stomping in a puddle and running shoeless down forest paths. They stopped to identify bugs and birds and climb on the low-lying branches of a tree.
Kenny explained that most kids learn to climb on metal bars and symmetrical objects. She said the tree branches make them adjust to irregular sizes and random placement.
Parents see their children grow among the trees.
"And I picked him yesterday, he was wet completely to the bone, and I said what was your favorite part and he said 'laying in the puddle,'" said parent Amber Tjemsland.
Kenny said her curriculum is based on a European model, where nature schools are known to be very successful at producing children who are confident and eager to learn as they grow up.