Nature Preschool

Coming in 2018!

Nature Preschool at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (Milwaukee, WI)


Nature Preschool at Ijams Nature Center

Ijams is currently in the early planning stages for developing a Nature Preschool. Not only will this provide an amazing resource for our Knoxville community, but it is also a wonderful way to strengthen our mission. Our Nature Preschool will focus on child-led, age-appropriate, and experiential learning for children ages 3-5. Most of the day will be spend outdoors, exploring nature and making a strong connection with the environment. Children will learn through play, discovery, and inquiry. Our Nature Preschool will help to develop the whole child. Not only will children develop a solid foundation for lifelong learning, but they will also cultivate a love of nature that is the basis for a conservation ethic later in life.

Because we are still early in the planning stages, we have not finalized schedules or pricing. At the beginning of 2018, we will begin hosting open houses for visitors interested in learning more. In the meantime, please take our survey and tell us your thoughts on Nature Preschool!

Nature Preschool at Chippewa Nature Center (Midland, MI)


What is a Nature-Based Preschool?

To be considered a Nature-Based Preschool, nature must be at the heart of the program. While Nature Preschools have the same child development goals as any other high quality preschool, the curriculum and teachers achieve these developmental goals through nature-based experiences.

A nature-based preschool provides children with special opportunities to learn about the natural world, while also providing daily opportunities for personal growth and achievement. In addition to providing age-appropriate and experiential learning opportunities, connecting with nature allows young children to form a deeper bond with nature. With this emotional attachment in place, the child is primed for learning more about nature and for taking care of it—since most people want to understand and care for the things they love. Over 100 years ago the American naturalist John Burroughs said it perfectly, “Learning without love will not stick. But if love comes first, learning is sure to follow.”

The Schuykill Center Nature Preschool (Philadelphia, PA)


Nature Preschool and Early Childhood Development

The Nature Preschool at Ijams Nature Center will develop a balanced curriculum that seeks to develop the whole child. Holistic development refers to children growing up with strong and effective stimulation of all the developmental domains: cognitive (intellectual), creative, physical, social/emotional, and spiritual. All of these are supported and boosted by frequent play in natural settings.

To do this most effectively, the children’s activities draw from their own interests, discoveries, and observations—with the preschool’s natural settings providing a treasure trove of opportunities and adventure. General themes may be followed, such as seasonal changes, natural cycles, weather, plant growth, and animal habitats, but each day’s activities remain flexible, to allow for the ever-changing delights and surprises of nature.

This child-led approach to education fits seamlessly with current understanding of how young children best grow and develop. Despite American society’s apparent obsession with moving formal academic instruction into earlier and earlier ages, research is now showing us that developing the whole child is excellent preparation for school readiness.

Irvine Nature Center Preschool (Owings Mills, MD)


Our Vision

The vision of Ijams Nature Center’s Nature Preschool will be to nurture learning by:

  • Providing a supportive, safe learning environment to encourage discovery, inquiry, and experimentation.
  • Providing sensory experiences with live animals, natural objects, artifacts, trail activities and art materials for students to utilize all five senses
  • Providing opportunities for unstructured, child-led outdoor adventures
  • Encouraging cognitive growth and motor skills based on children’s abilities and interests
  • Helping children develop problem-solving skills through hands-on direct experiences
  • Encouraging language skills and literacy through songs, stories and dramatic play
  • Cultivating social skills and positive self-image through group play and cooperative learning opportunities
  • Encouraging family involvement to help students appreciate the wisdom of their first teachers —their parents/guardians
  • Helping students to appreciate diversity of living things and celebrate individuality of children and families

for more information, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.