ActivitiesCampChildcareFamilyWhat is a Nature School?

June 29, 20210

Living in the technological age means children are more reliant on electronic devices for entertainment and education. With more phone time and less outdoor play it’s no wonder nature schools are becoming increasingly popular. 


Nature-based preschools incorporate early childhood learning and environmental education. The curriculum connects children with the natural world. Nature-based schools serve children ages 3-5 and spend a minimum of 30% of their time outdoors. 

According to Dr. Patti Bailie, a pioneer of research on the nature preschool movement and Ken Finch, Founding Director of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in ChildhoodStimulating outdoor habitats are the focus of the curriculum, providing a wider diversity of discoveries and experiences than most indoor classrooms. The children’s frequent and attentive explorations of nature immerse them in the ecology which can be an ideal foundation for place-based learning.


There are 585 nature-based programs in the United States today. An article published by the North American Association For Environmental Education suggests that there are a variety of ways that nature enhances children’s health and development, including;


  • Enhancing brain development


  • Improving academic performance


  • Enhancing communication


  • Promoting socio-emotional development


  • Promoting emotional resilience and self-regulation


  • Providing mental health benefits


  • Reducing symptoms of ADHD


  • Providing therapeutic benefits to children with autism


  • Promoting physical activity and motor development


Nature kindergartens promote hands-on activities and free play focusing on exploration outside. A curriculum in a nature school will familiarize children with plants, animals, and their natural surroundings and might include crafts and art projects, gardening, and nature walks. Children will learn about the various species in nature throughout the seasons. We’ve compiled a list of nature preschools in Massachusetts to choose from.




Arcadia Nature PreschoolSet on the more than 730-acre Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton


Boston Nature Center Pathways to Nature Preschool– Adhere to the practices of Massachusetts standards, in a nurturing learning environment through a focus on structured and unstructured outdoor play. Encourages child-led inquiry and respect for our students as learners and their ability to construct their own knowledge.


Drumlin Farm Community Preschool– Children learn through hands-on nature-based experiences that address the developmental needs of children ages 3 to 6 as they explore the varied habitats at the sanctuary.


Ipswich River Nature Preschool– Emergent curriculum approach emphasizes purposeful and productive play as a way to enable children to grow physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually


Nature Preschool Explorers at Long Pasture– Located on a 101-acre wildlife sanctuary, our magnificent outdoor classroom offers a wide variety of habitats—including forest, field, vernal pools, and tidal flats—as well as a nature playground. 


Home-Based Options


Want to introduce a nature-based program at home? Below is a list of printable and curriculum resources.


The Little Oak Learning– Waldorf inspired offers twelve weeks of seasonal stories, songs, activities and recipes. 


Exploring Nature With Children – year-long curriculum designed to guide you, step by step, through an entire calendar year of nature study. 


Chickie & RooKinder Nature Beginnings Math is a supplemental math program for ages Pre-K through 3rd grade with nature as a spine. This resource is designed to work alongside any main curriculum.


Fiddlesticks Educationrange of beautiful and educational hand-painted watercolor materials that teach concepts such as nature anatomy and counting.


Have we missed a nature-based program you want families to know about?  NOMINATE the preschool and let us know!

Does your child LOVE their nature school? Leave them a review on Tykely so they can hear how great they’re doing!

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