Updated: 06/12/2014 11:59 PM
Created: 06/12/2014 11:27 PM WDIO.com
By: Julie Kruse
Even though Thursday morning was pretty chilly with strong winds and some showers, a group of preschoolers in Duluth braved the weather and got outdoors. Meghan Morrow, the owner of the Secret Forest Playschool in Duluth, says these kids were out 363 days last year as a part of the new Nature Play Collaborative Group.
Morrow says the goal of the group is to encourage the Duluth community as well as families with small children to take advantage of what Duluth has to offer.
"It's about getting your kids outside in nature in an unstructured play environment," Morrow said. "There doesn't need to be a plan or a schedule or a goal in mind. It can be really open ended and the kids will create with the environment what they want. Whether it's a rock that becomes a car or a stick that becomes a wand, they come up with the best ideas."
She says these early years are critical to a child's development, but a lot of what they learn doesn't need to be in a classroom.
"The more time children spend outside, the more confident they become in who they are and how they're connected to nature," Morrow said. "It also creates a space for them to develop problem solving skills and resilience for when things don't go right the first time to try again. They become really independent. One of the coolest things I've seen at playschool is kids are really good at taking risks and assessing where their limits are. It's been really fun to watch them decide how far they can push things and where their comfort zone is."
The co-founder of the Nature Play Collaborative Group, Laura Whittaker, agrees.
"In a classroom setting, many of the things we are trying to do are happening naturally outside," said Whittaker. "When children are outside they are in their natural habitat, so they are exploring, problem solving, using their creativity, they're socializing. This is where they're meant to play."
Hartley Nature Preschool, Wind Ridge Schoolhouse, and The Little Barnyard Preschool will be three new additions to the group come fall, but these nature-based programs are still in high-demand. The Secret Forest Playschool says that their waitlist is overflowing and that the three new nature based programs will fill-up fast.
To find out how to get involved, visit their Facebook page.
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