College Offering Nature Based Early Childhood Education Degree

Nature based preschools are growing in popularity. Now, you can get a early childhood degree that focuses on this growing trend of school.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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nature based preschool

For quite some time, there was a push to normalize putting young children, usually preschool-aged, in full-time classes mimicking what students were learning in kindergarten. Many universal preschools no longer focus on playtime and instead are urging toddlers into reading and writing. But also in a growing trend, experts are highlighting the plethora of benefits young children develop when they learn in both play based and nature based preschools. Now, a first-of-its-kind education degree is being offered at a college that gives early childhood educators the tools they need to focus on this outdoor style of education.

K-12 Dive reports that the University of Cincinnati will soon be offering those seeking an early childhood education degree the chance to enroll in an online degree program that centers around a nature based preschool focus. The new curriculum will place a priority on learning tactics that foster children’s development much as the university’s existing early childhood program does, but with an emphasis on learning environments. It is offered as more and more studies display the massive benefits of planning school lessons based on an outdoor experience. 

Throughout the United States, more and more educators are touting themselves as a nature based preschool. Currently, there are at least 585 schools of this kind, and even forest kindergartens are popping up all over the place. According to information from the American Association for Environmental Education, the amount of these preschools has more than doubled in the past three years. 

The purpose of this new degree program is to give future teachers the resources and knowledge they will need to guide younglings with a nature based preschool focus. Colleges are teaching about the plethora of benefits that nature based preschools can offer. For one thing, mountains of research depict multiple ways students thrive in these types of environments.

For young children, fine motor skills develop easier in outdoor learning environments. The benefits don’t stop there. Research suggests that kids who attend nature based preschools are at less risk of developing health issues, such as obesity. Being outside for an extended period of time also builds natural immunity, and can in turn mean young students miss less school. Outdoor schools also boost social development, and confidence at higher levels than indoor classrooms can. 

College students looking to enter the new program at the University of Cincinnati will be immersed in various practice standards and research studies over the last decade and more that have evaluated both teacher and children’s experiences in natural landscapes while learning. Additionally, course work will look to research conducted by the Artlitt Center within the University, which has studied nature based preschools for quite some time with support from the National Science Foundation. 

nature based preschool

People all ages benefit from spending more time in green space. But fostering a love for the great outdoors with nature based preschools can benefit young children for a lifetime. As public schools continue to lose trust with the public and parents overall, more and more families are seeking alternatives, and these types of education are proving their worth.