British Columbia

B.C. parents petition for outdoor preschools

Some B.C. parents want provincial childcare licensing standards changed to allow for full-time, outdoor preschools.

Petition asks for changes to province's childcare licensing scheme

Outdoor preschools, like this one in Seattle, Washington, have become increasingly popular in recent years. (Seattle Parks/Flickr)

Can you imagine nap time in the boreal forest?

One group of B.C. parents would like their preschoolers to have that option, through a full-time, outdoors-only preschool.

But there's a little red tape to get through before they can put on their gumboots.

Hartley Banack is a lecturer with the education department at the University of British Columbia, and is one of the people behind a petition to change B.C.'s childcare licensing standards to make it easier for young kids to learn outdoors.

"Currently the standards are written in a way that ... really anchors it to a 'facility,' and this facility is generally understood as an indoor space," he explained.

"The legislation needs to change in a way that acknowledges that learning programs at the preschool and daycare level can happen independent of the building."

Hartley Banack wants the B.C. government to loosen restrictions to allow for outdoor preschools. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

Banack is a passionate advocate of outdoor education.

"The benefits for physical wellbeing for oneself, mental cognitive wellbeing for oneself, as well as for the benefits of learning experience — experiential learning — all of these are benefits of being outdoors."

The outdoor school has been popular in many Scandinavian countries for years, he said, and is increasing in popularity here too.

In fact, he added, there are a number of outdoor kindergartens in B.C., and some of them even have wait lists.

These schools can operate because they fall under the kindergarten to Grade 12 regulations, Banack said.

As for safety and security issues — not to mention bathroom facilities and shelter — for the toddler set, Banack is adamant that an outdoor preschool can still function well.

"Being outdoors doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to get wet, cold, and be miserable," he said.

"[The outdoor preschool] still has to look at the child and their needs in the exact same way as an indoor facility, [and] just account for how that might look in a facility-less place."

Banack added a little struggle could be a good thing.

"There's a lot of literature that supports the idea that being outdoors helps the child develop grit [and] resiliance."

With files from The Early Edition.

To listen to the audio, click on the link labelled B.C. parents petition for full-time outdoor preschools.


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