I Picked up my Daughter from Preschool... Filthy and Missing Her Shoes

Her clothes were dirty, the seat of her pants more tan than pink. She had a splatter of dried mud in her falling out braid and her shoes were nowhere to be seen. Was I furious? A bit annoyed?

Not at all, as this was EXACTLY what we'd signed her up for and on her face was a beaming grin.

Our four year old attends Hugging Tree Nature Preschool, a preschool located in Waterloo, Iowa with a nature-based curriculum centered around a child's natural sense of exploration and wonder. Instead of sitting for hours at desks indoors, the children are learning outdoors for as many hours as weather permits. They learn about the living things all around them, delighting in the joy of recognizing different bird songs or spotting animal tracks. They foster a sense of community and naturally learn to work together through the building of forts, preparing mud kitchen meals, and time in the sand box. Instead of simply memorizing and reciting their ABC's, they're finding sticks shaped like letters and noticing creatures found in the woods who start with their sounds.

She isn't told to sit still, as her body is meant to move.

She isn't told to curb her excitement, as discovering life all around her is something to celebrate.

She isn't told to quiet her curiosity-fueled questions or imaginings, as they are the makings of a life-long learner and world explorer.

On rainy days, she dons her bright green froggy rain suit and boots to splash in puddles and observe the consistencies of mud puddles. Snowy days are filled with sledding, fort building, and learning how to safely build a fire to keep the group warm. Every day picking up and dropping off I saw representations of Hugging Tree's mission statement in action: