Outside Kids Ocean Forest Kindergarten, an entirely outdoor experience, is a small private school for children ages 3-6. Our program is held entirely outdoors, in our unique barrier island ecosystem that includes forest, marsh, wetlands, dunes and our beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach. Our classes will field trip every day to our pristine beaches and throughout local parks in the area: Hanna Park, Johannsen Park, Dutton Island, and Howell Park.
Outside Kids is play-based and children are able to develop their skills and habits over time and at their own pace. Children naturally become self-motivated, cooperative, respectful, grateful, and aware of their impact on the earth. They get the opportunity to experience outdoor adventures in all weather conditions. Our program is made as safe as is reasonably possible to facilitate children’s risk-taking abilities. Our low student to teacher ratio is maintained with this in mind. It is a complete nature immersion class that helps to build a child’s sense of place in the world.
Research strongly supports the idea that young children, particularly aged 2-6, learn best through direct experiences with the world around them. Being outdoors provides them with not only fresh air, but it also encourages imaginative play, creativity, coordination and balance, physical strength, and mental clarity. By kindling their innate sense of wonder about nature, we can help children learn basic environmental and natural science principles, as well as respect for all living things. Lessons flow organically from the natural rhythms of the seasons and from the children’s daily discoveries. There are no set lesson plans; each day is shaped by the animals, insects, birds, amphibians, plants, tides and weather that we encounter providing spontaneous moments of inquiry, wonder, and joy!
We believe that children learn best out of doors, and we believe that most if not all of Pre-K and Kindergarten standards can be met in natural creative ways that do not require children to sit indoors at a work table or center.
Outside Kids Ocean Forest Kindergarten meets in local, natural spaces. The sky is our ceiling, the trees are our walls, and the floor is the living Earth. Our students learn to identify local flora and fauna, recognize patterns in nature, build physical competence, agility, and confidence, and develop a solid foundation for lifelong learning. Outside Kids are busy climbing trees, recognizing plants that can heal or harm us, identifying and observing animals, observing changes on the land, painting, drawing, crafting, and playing in nature’s playground. Mother Nature provides the most meaningful lesson plans for the young child, from observing and participating in the natural rhythm of the seasons to counting and sorting acorns and pine cones, to watching the magical transformation from tadpoles to frogs and even recognizing patterns in the tree branches that look like the letters in their name. Using wild harvested materials in our play and work helps us to experience our interdependence through all of our senses.
With a strong daily rhythm, our classes are infused with songs, games, poetry, storytelling, and plays. This creative work develops a wide array of skills and qualities, a keen memory, a rich vocabulary, the firm foundation for future literacy, and a strong sense of rhythm. Our imagination acts as a bond between ourselves and nature, helping us to develop reverence, understanding, and compassion. Daily, the land offers a host of new adventures to spark the natural curiosity and imagination of each child.
What we love, we are likely to protect. To love something we must know it. Natural settings afford the children direct experience with a world not made by humans where we can feel ourselves a part of a larger community of life.
Our mission is to foster a positive connection between young children and the natural environment. We take care of what we love, and by nurturing a love for our natural spaces in our young children, they will grow up to be the kind of human beings that will care for Mother Nature.
Outside Kids is inspired by the model of Cedarsong Nature School and LifeWays. Cedarsong’s child-led, emergent curriculum, is complemented by the Lifeways seasonal calendar which brings stories, songs and festivals to celebrate year-round.
Why Outside Kids?
The average North American child spends seven hours per day in front of a screen, compared to 30 minutes per day playing outside in a natural setting. Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth and development. Many children are missing a crucial stage of their development - connection to nature. Abundant time in natural settings yields long-term benefits in children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development. Outside Kids Ocean Forest Kindergarten program is based on this research and provides an exemplary outdoor environmental education experience for our children.
Our local parks system has made exploring our barrier island ecosystem readily available to all. Specifically, Hanna Park, Dutton Island Preserve and Atlantic Beach provide the perfect setting with their pristine Florida scrub hammock, forest, wetland, dunes, and beach.
In a time when the connection between humans and the rest of nature is most vulnerable, Outside Kids gives children daily opportunities to develop a deep positive connection with nature.
Young children are held by natural rhythms - the breathing, waking and sleeping of their own bodies, the sounds that greet them throughout the day, the yearly cycles of the seasons, and especially in Florida, the ebb and flow of the tides. Children thrive when their daily activities are arranged to reflect this natural order in life.
The LifeWays and Waldorf approach to early childhood education emphasizes a strong sense of rhythm. Each day our activities acknowledge seasonal changes and celebrates the joy of early childhood.
A Typical Outside Kids Day
Arrival and Greetings
Foraging Snack and Hike
Art, Science or Service Project
Beach Play or Nature Hike
Hammock Rest Time
“Let Nature be your teacher.”
“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”
“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.”
“The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.”
“A beach is not only a sweep of sand, but shells of sea creatures, the sea glass, the seaweed, the incongruous objects washed up by the ocean.”