Swallowtail Forest School, which opened at the Louisville Nature Center on Sept. 21, is the first of its kind in Louisville’s urban area. The preschool is modeled after forest school, with children learning through play in all weather.
“The children seem to be so excited to be outside,” said Bridget Benson, Education Programs Manager at the LNC, who runs the program with an assistant. “They seem to be thriving.”
The forest school enrolls 10 children in each class, which runs Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. To date, a total of 17 children are enrolled in the program, which is currently full.
Benson said the there had been discussion at the Louisville Nature Center about starting a forest school, but that the pandemic had moved the plans forward sooner than expected.
“With our field trips cancelled this fall, and likely the spring, (due to the pandemic), we knew we would have time during the weekdays for a preschool program,” she said.
There are many benefits of programs such as forest school centered on free play. Research indicates that unstructured time in nature encourages creativity, cognitive improvements, physical and social emotional development. It also allows children to engage in healthy risk assessment, which contributes to their healthy development.
Benson said parents, too, are thankful for a safe alternative to traditional indoor education.