Maybe you've heard about it but you're not quite sure what Outdoor Preschool Licensing is all about. Aren't nature preschools already able to be licensed?
Well, yes. In fact there are many wonderful nature preschools that are fully licensed in Maryland - The Nature Preschool at Irvine Nature Center, the Audubon Naturalist Society Nature Preschool, and Forest Preschool and Child Care at Carrie Murray Nature Center all come to mind. They are able to be licensed because they have indoor classrooms and buildings that are used as part of their programming.
Outdoor Preschool Licensing is for programs that meet 100%, fully immersed in nature. Yes - 100% of the time, these preschools meet outside! These programs take place in a surprising range of settings such as parks, gardens, farms, beaches, and mountains. We know we can provide greater access to the benefits of nature-based learning and high quality child care by making outdoor preschools another option for Maryland families.
Read this Outdoor Preschool Licensing brochure to learn why it is vital for all children to have safe, inclusive access to outdoor preschool.
Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the wheel! Our colleagues in Washington State enacted a bill to conduct a four-year Outdoor Preschool Licensing Pilot Program. This enabled experts in nature-based education to work closely with State officials to develop specific licensing guidelines for outdoor preschools - guidelines that are relevant to the work we do with children in fully outdoor settings. Following they pilot, they passed legislation in 2021 to officially license Outdoor Nature-Based Preschools in WA!
In early 2020 before the pandemic, organizers in Maryland formed an Outdoor Preschool Licensing (OPL) Advisory Team and got to work! Visit this Policy Advocacy Map by the Natural Start Alliance to learn about initiatives in your state.
In 2022, champion Delegate Michele Guyton (District 42B) proposed HB376 to establish an Outdoor Preschool Licensing Pilot Program in Maryland. The bill had seven co-sponsors and groundswell of community support including: the Maryland State Child Care Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, North American Association for Environmental Education, and the Maryland Association for Outdoor Environmental Education, just to name a few! But the bill didn't get a vote. It never moved forward from the Ways and Means Committee.
Our efforts continue in earnest to ensure that outdoor preschools become another option for early learning. Want to get involved? Contact co-chairs of the OPL Advisory Team, Lisa Poe or Monica Wiedel-Lubinski to get involved with advocacy.