A new trend in early education is breaking ground in Arkansas.
One of the first “outdoor preschools” in the state opened in January here in Little Rock.
“This definitely gives them a respite in a really busy screen-driven world,” Lead Educator, Monica Woods said.
You won’t find any hallways at Lake Nixon Outdoor Preschool.
A faint trail and wooden bridge takes us to the young students.
“Anything that allows a child to be in the natural environment, they just learn exponentially more,” Woods said.
Here, they coddle curiosity instead of a set schedule.
“People play up academics even for 3 to 5 year olds and we just see that that it’s not necessarily needed when you’re in an emergent curriculum, when you’re in an environment that allows you to do all kinds of daily tasks,” Woods said.
Woods has been a guide in the mountains of Colorado, as well as a teacher in the more traditional sense. This opportunity combines her two loves.
She’s seen how children at this age adapt fearlessly.
“The kids learn really quickly self sufficiency.”
Armed with hats, gloves, coats and boots, near freezing temperatures seem to have no impact on imagination.
“They can help tell us when they’re cold. We take safety precautions around extreme weather and storms and we do go inside if we have to.”
Otherwise, the students are only indoors for an hour long rest period.
According to the American Journal of Play, healthy risks taken outdoors can spur confidence.
“Kids need to get messy!” Woods said.
And it helps prepare young minds to think beyond four walls when it’s time to matriculate.
“It helps wire their brain for later academic work.”
The program is private and associated with Second Baptist Church.
Currently, the program is only Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The fall session will be all weekdays. There is already a wait-list.