Outdoor preschools opened at four Seattle Parks this month, including Carkeek Park. The preschools are run by Tiny Trees Preschool in a pilot program for affordable, nature-based preschool.
In an outdoor classroom, lessons have a natural magic: instead of counting marbles, children collect and count acorns; to learn colors, geometry and fine motor control, children use paintbrushes to spread pollen between flowers and record the color, shape and number of petals to share with the class; and with a pile of leaves and twigs, they build sculptures and art that reflect the wilds of their imagination.
At Tiny Trees, 52% of the incoming class receives financial assistance. At Carkeek Park, families who make less than $72,000 a year receive free tuition through the Seattle Preschool Program Pathways.
Tiny Trees Preschool keeps costs low by eliminating the cost of building, renovating and maintaining a child care facility. Instead of spending a huge amount on bricks and mortar the school spends it on hiring and supporting great teachers. The result is a preschool that costs 80% less to start and tuition prices that are 10 or 40% below market rate. Beginning September 12, 2016, Tiny Trees will operate schools at Camp Long in West Seattle, Carkeek Park in Northwest Seattle, John C. Little Park in the Rainier Valley and Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill.
The pilot agreement illustrates Seattle Parks and Recreation’s support for the city’s Preschool Program, approved by Seattle voters in 2014 to make preschool opportunities available for all Seattle 3- and 4-year-old children.
The Seattle Preschool Program aims to provide high quality early childhood education programs for 1,600 children a year by 2018. Tiny Trees Preschool is a provider for the Seattle Preschool Program – Pathways at Carkeek Park, and has two years to meet the quality standards for the Seattle Preschool Program.
To make sure families are prepared for a Seattle winter, Tiny Trees provides every child a free one-piece rain suit and boots from the Vancouver, WA based company Oakiwear. Children also use picnic shelters in heavy rain and there is an emergency shelter designated at each site in case of severe weather or emergency. Tiny Trees follows the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) calendar and is closed on SPS snow days.