Preschool Without Walls

Preschool Without Walls
Three-year-old Desi Sorrelgreen’s favorite thing about his preschool is “running up hills.” His classmate Stelyn Carter, 5, likes to “be quiet and listen to birds — crows, owls and chickadees,” as she put it. And for Joshua Doctorow, 4, the best part of preschool just may be the hat he loves to wear to class (black and fuzzy, with flaps that come down over his ears).

All three children are students at Fiddleheads Forest School here, where they spend four hours a day, rain or shine, in adjacent cedar grove “classrooms” nestled among the towering trees of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens.

The program, in its third year, is less than seven miles from Microsoft, which means some parents sit in front of computers all day inventing the digital future, while Fiddleheads children make letters out of sticks or cart rocks around in wheelbarrows.

Founded in 2012 by Kit Harrington, a certified preschool teacher, and Sarah Heller, a naturalist and science educator, Fiddleheads is part of a larger national trend that goes beyond Waldorf education, which has long emphasized outdoor play, even in inclement weather.

Whether the schools are emerging in reaction to concerns that early education has become increasingly academic or simply because parents think traipsing around in the woods sounds like more fun than sitting at a desk, they are increasingly popular.

The Natural Start Alliance, founded in 2013 in response to demand from a growing number of nature preschool providers, now counts 92 schools that deliberately…
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1 Comment

  1. “Fiddleheads is part of a larger national trend that goes beyond Waldorf education, which has long emphasized outdoor play, even in inclement weather.”

    The Waldorf is where my grandson has gone to school and grown up. Outdoor and nature is so much a valuable part of the life there and I so appreciate what you have done here to improve and to gain on this value for kids.

    My company produces Made-in-Maine HowdaHUG portable seats for kids and these would be marvelous in the sitting circles under the trees during class time. Please consider allowing me to donate one natural HowdaHUG seat to your school so that you may know it.

    please email me at
    I am the owner and we have been supplying these wonderful portable seats to schools. Yours is so special and our seats are too!

    contact me please


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