Parents at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool in Milwaukee like to share the changes they notice in their children. After spending hours outside each day—clambering over logs, exploring under rocks, learning to quietly observe wildlife—shy children became bolder, and hesitation gradually morphed into confidence.
Teachers noticed a difference too: The kids could sit still when needed, became more attentive listeners, and could better regulate their behavior.
“I’d meet teachers at other schools who would say, ‘I know kids who came from that preschool,’” says school founder and former director Patti Bailie, now an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Maine. “They ask more questions, are willing to try new things, and are more caring with the other children.”