A New Guiding Vision for Early Childhood Education
Childhood is a critical stage of human growth. While I watched my
daughter nursing and caring for her new child recently, I marveled at
how a nine-month gestation had produced a healthy baby. I realized how
much more work and focus would be needed to guide that child forward
into a mature and healthy adulthood. As difficult as pregnancy was for
my daughter, she now faces a much longer and more complex task, as
do her husband and all of the people who will be part of her daughter’s
Children need a nurturing childhood to emerge as healthy, whole
adults, just as fetuses need those nine months inside nurturing wombs.
As a society, we’ve learned a lot about the importance of prenatal care—
but how much do most of us know about postnatal care? We need a
social vision for nurturing childhood as much as we do for nurturing
gestation. How different would well-nurtured children look as adults?
How would our society look if it were populated by such people?
Seeing childhood as a period of gestation in which children must
be protected, nurtured, and supported before they are formally taught
facts and cognitive skills is fundamental to the vision of the Outdoor
Classroom. That said, I see the Outdoor Classroom as only one among many
elements that are important in serving and supporting children’s devel-
opment. (Others include good parenting, good schooling, and fruitful
social activities.) Programs in which the Outdoor Classroom’s vision can
thrive include programs labeled ECE, child care, day care, preschool, and
nursery school. The Outdoor Classroom can be implemented in family
child care settings as well.
The Role of the Outdoor Classroom