Outdoor Preschool Awesomeness: A Photo Essay

by Andrew Jay, Tiny Trees Preschool

Photos courtesy of Katrina Shelby

What do you get when you remove the walls from a preschool?

Short answer: mud, joy, adventure, science, nature, exercise.

At Tiny Trees Preschool, we break down the walls of a traditional classroom to give families what they deserve: affordable, quality preschool to get their kids ready for kindergarten.

By partnering with Seattle and King County Parks, we can open more classrooms in more neighborhoods in Puget Sound. That means instead of spending a huge amount on bricks and mortar, we spend money on what matters: hiring and supporting great teachers.

So, what about when it rains? This is Seattle, after all, and last year was our wettest winter on record. To prepare, we provide every kid with the same all-weather suits and boots that Norwegian fishermen wear.

Teachers keep kids moving and interacting with each other and the world around them to keep warm while they learn and build executive functioning and fine motor skills.

As Washingtonians know, if you can adapt to Seattle weather, you can adapt to anything. One parent remarked, “I hate being outside! But it’s important for my kids to develop a love for nature, and to learn that there is no limitation on what they can do. Learning how to adapt with the weather gives them confidence to take on whatever they face with the knowledge that they will succeed.”

By teaching kids that uncontrollable forces like the weather are just another part of the day to prepare for and adapt to, we’re teaching them that there is nothing they can’t do. After all, for preschoolers, rain means puddles, snow means sledding, and sunshine means blackberries.

With the rising cost of childcare in Seattle, more families are struggling to find a way to send their kids to a quality preschool that will prepare them for kindergarten.

When we take preschool outside, and eliminate the costs associated with building and maintaining a brick and mortar site, we are able to provide high quality preschool for 10-20% below market rate.

And for the families that still struggle with that price, we offer an equity-based tuition model. That means that low-income families receive scholarships from Tiny Trees, or the Seattle Preschool Program.

At Tiny Trees, equity is more important than convenience. A family’s income should not dictate the quality of education their kids receive. Mixed-income classrooms help all children learn from each other, and from the world around them.

So, what do you really get when you remove the walls from a preschool? Quality, affordable, nature-rich preschool for all kids.


About the Author

Andrew Jay is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tiny Trees Preschool. He is a non-profit professional with 15 years of education experience and built Tiny Trees Preschool from an idea to an organization with 25 full time staff helping 270 children daily in 10 outdoor classrooms. Previously, Andrew built YMCA BOLD & GOLD from a small program serving 30 kids a year to an organization with an annual budget of $900,000 that served 1,200 young people annually. Later, as the National Director, he led the expansion effort replicating BOLD & GOLD at YMCAs across the country. He has a fundraising record of $1.6 million in major gifts and won the SVP Fast Pitch competition for best non-profit start up in 2014. He has a Master’s in Non-Profit Leadership from Seattle University and is a Washington native where he went to Waldorf preschool in Gig Harbor from age 3 to 5.

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