Outdoor preschool launched in Carp

by DaniGirl on October 2, 2008 · 15 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Life, the Universe and Everything

This is something new: in the little suburban Ottawa community of Carp, they’re launching an all-outdoors all-the-time preschool. According to the CBC:

Children will play outside all day, rain or shine, in warm or wintry weather at Canada’s first outdoor preschool.

The Carp Ridge Forest Pre-School promises its students few comforts like plastic toys, climate control, or electric power when it opens in about two months in Ottawa’s rural western outskirts.

Instead, it boasts a garden, trails through the woods, and a tent-like shelter called a yurt, and aims to help children aged three to six connect with nature.

They’re on a 77 acre lot, and there is a building there if the temps drop below -10C (approx 10F, I think) or if there is danger from lightning. Otherwise, the kids play outdoors.

At first, I snickered and said, “No way.” Then I thought about it a bit more, and I think the idea is growing on me. I think I might lean to something a little more moderate (maybe half the time outside?) but I love the idea and am tickled that it’s happening more or less in our neighbourhood.

What do you think?

Edited to add:
completely by coincidence, I was standing in line at Tim Horton’s this morning, flipping through the neighbourhood weekly, and came across a reference to the Outdoor Education Council of Ottawa. I was curious, so I looked them up on the web:

Outdoor Education Council of Ottawa (OECO) is a council of Outdoor Education providers in the Ottawa area including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA, Friends of Lasting Outdoor Education and the three Conservation Authorities serving the Ottawa area – the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the South Nation Conservation Authority. The Council was established with the over-arching goal of increasing the accessibility for students and the community to outdoor environmental education programs.

OECO Outdoor Education programs: Whether it is a program that combines First Nations’ ecological knowledge with scientific information to explain forest and watershed management, a recreation-based program focused on outdoor skills for day campers, an experiential program designed to encourage a love of nature, an in-school program aimed at making links between our lifestyles and environmental degradation or a hands-on program tied to educational learning objectives in specific subjects and grades, all the members of the Council are delivering Outdoor Education programs that provide valuable knowledge and important life experiences for the children in the region.

I had no idea. Very interesting! I see that they list the public school board as partners but not the Catholic school board. Think I might have to look further into this one!

And one further coincidence on outdoor education programs: today, Tristan’s school is having an outdoor activity day. I had completely forgotten about it! Instead of all day in the classroom with two outdoor breaks, they spend all day outdoors with two indoor breaks. And the temperature this morning? A chilly zero degrees, bang on the freezing mark!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Theresa October 2, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Can’t believe this was thought up in CANADA!!!

First thing popping in my brain was…uhhhh isn’t MOST of winter below -10C?!?!? Well….we live on the prairies….but I was under the impression that it got quite cold over there too….hmmmmm?

And then with global warming and all…I don’t know about other moms but my kids don’t get to go outside much between noon and three-ish in the afternoons due to high UV rays…. and I DON’T consider myself to be overly freaked by sun….just practical.

So it would depend on the number of hours…and whether they had some structure like stories and song, counting, abc’s etc. Cuz heaven forbid your child can’t read by the time he’s 3!!! (well not quite that bad….but almost…ugg!)

2 Barbara October 3, 2008 at 5:21 am

I saw the piece on tv and noticed that the organizer was carrying a plastic sand pail over her arm for the time they were outside. (The preachy reference to no plastic toys notwithstanding.) I did think it was a fun idea and would definitely sign Reid up for a weekend afternoon activity since it is too far west for me on a weekday. Given what I’ve read about how far schools are from what boys need in their lives at 4, I might make the trip if Reid was a boy, though.

For Theresa: outdoor preschools are well-established in Europe. See: http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0513/p16s01-lecl.html

3 sky girl October 3, 2008 at 6:38 am

I think it’s a really cool idea. Would I enjoy Chicka or my one-on-the-way? I guess I’d have to check it out for an afternoon or two first.

4 XUP October 3, 2008 at 7:21 am

I saw this on the news, too and thought it sounded great. I don’t think it’s completely new to Canada, though. Toronto Island had/has an outdoor type school and BC has similar concepts. I’m not sure what they need all that acreage for though. And ya, I noticed more than one plastic toy – and the trampoline?? I’ll be interested to see how this works out.

5 jo(e) October 3, 2008 at 8:29 am

I think it’s a fantastic idea. Have you read Richard Louv’s _Last Child in the Woods_? He cites studies that show all the benefits of “unstructured time in nature” for children. In fact, unstructured time in nature works as well as medication for such things as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Countries like Denmark have had daycare places like that for years already.

6 Mac and Cheese October 3, 2008 at 9:23 am

I keep flipping between “Great idea!”, and “Ottawa gets too frickin’ cold.”

7 DaniGirl October 3, 2008 at 10:12 am

I keep thinking about this, and it’s not even the cold that gets me. Part of me keeps picturing the snow dump we had last March — you could lose a preschooler in those drifts! But mostly it’s the bugs. Imagine the mosquitos! But then, maybe I’m just a wimp…

8 Ingrid October 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm

In 1975we lived in Finland which has winters comparable to ours. One of my brothers who was 2 at that time went to a “playgroup/nurseryschool” which was outdoors for a whole morning. I don’t believe any Finnish children or teachers perished in that program.

I think this sounds great! I would consider it for my kids if they weren’t in university or living in centre town.

Great way to instill a love for nature, and the ability to find your own fun within your surroundings.

9 alison October 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

The mosquitoes around here (Carp) are at their worst in the evenings, Dani. Most summer days are OK for bugs. My kids play outside at recess at school year-round, and at daycare after school too. And after I pick them up from daycare, it’s a rare day (usually only rain) that they don’t play outside again. Last winter they had fun with snowforts and jumping off the huge snowbanks lining our driveway.

So I can totally see this outdoor preschool thing working out. In fact, if my kids were of the age to go, I’d do it. Then again, it’s only a 5-minute drive from my place, and I could see Ottawans not wanting to do the commute. Did you guys do the Carp Fair this year?

10 Chantal October 3, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Interesting. I hadn’t heard of it. We could use some of that philosophy in my neighbourhood. I was home for 2 weeks this summer and nary saw a kid outside (when I was out with my own). Although I am one to talk, I do find myself talking them into indoor activities so I can get things done around the house… Blush

11 anita kaiser October 3, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Oh, I’m so envious that you have that kind of option for your kids. I think this is an amazing idea. Can’t wait to hear what you think after you check it out!

12 DaniGirl October 4, 2008 at 6:06 am

Oh sorry, Anita, I didn’t mean to give the impression that I’d be checking it out. My big boys are in school and my youngest is too little, and it’d be about a 40 minute drive from here in traffic. But I do like the idea!

13 Nia October 4, 2008 at 2:39 pm

I ask, I am not sure, what were you doing at Tim’s? didn’t doctor B say “no sugar”?

14 Ernesta October 4, 2008 at 10:32 pm

What a great idea! Not so sure about having little ones outside all day in the dead of winter, but love the idea of fresh air, getting closer to nature and enduring (some of) the elements — teaches you more about yourself than sitting in a smelly classroom!

15 DaniGirl October 5, 2008 at 5:43 am

LOL Nia. Yes, he did — you guys sure are keeping me accountable. I was in line for a coffee – three milks, no sugar.

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