Seattle Parks and Recreation selects outdoor preschool providers and expands program to new sites

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) has selected Tiny Trees and Roots & Sky Nature School to operate outdoor preschool programs at select park sites. These providers were selected following the department’s issuance of a Notice of Interest (NOI) in Oct. 2017 for high quality outdoor preschools within select parks for the 2018-19 school year, and beyond. SPR intends to enter Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) discussions with the providers in January 2018.

For the last two years, SPR conducted a pilot to consider the feasibility of hosting outdoor preschools in some of Seattle’s parks. SPR permitted preschools at sites in four Seattle parks: Camp Long, Jefferson Park, John C. Little Park, and Carkeek Park. As part of SPR’s recent NOI process, we allowed potential providers to consider three of the four parks listed above and six additional parks for a total of nine park sites including Meadowbrook Park, Beer Sheva Park, Sam Smith Park, Lincoln Park, North Acres Park, Magnuson Park, Camp Long, Jefferson Park, and Carkeek Park.

“Outdoor preschool is completely in line with our mission at Seattle Parks and Recreation. We love how much it affirms livability, affordability, activation of park spaces, and installation of environmentalism at a young age,” said Christopher Williams, Deputy Superintendent for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Roots & Sky Nature School has been selected to operate at Lincoln Park. This will be the first provider to operate at Lincoln Park as part of our pilot outdoor preschool project. Our intent to move into an agreement with Roots & Sky Nature School is contingent upon both their successful acceptance into the Seattle Preschool Program (pathway program) and acquisition of a business license. Community members are encouraged to attend a public meeting on Jan. 26 from 6 to 7 p.m. at Dakota Place (4304 SW Dakota St.) to ask questions and learn more about the program.

“The mission of Roots & Sky Nature School is to support a diversity of learners in developing a meaningful connection to the natural world and one another, as well as a sense of self-awareness, by providing all-weather opportunities to play, explore, experience, and interact in nature,” said Nicole Cobo, Founder of Roots & Sky Nature School. “Promoting clear, compassionate communication, while cultivating innate curiosity and wonder, we aim to foster the development of the whole child – physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and perceptual. When we take interest-led education outdoors, the sky truly is the limit.”

Tiny Trees, which has successfully operated at John C. Little Park, Jefferson Park, Camp Long and Carkeek Park since 2016, has been selected to operate programs at Carkeek East, Carkeek West, Meadowbrook, Jefferson, Camp Long North, Camp Long South, and Beer Sheva. Our intent to move into an agreement with Tiny Trees is contingent upon the provider maintaining good standing in the Seattle Preschool Program or Seattle Pathways Program.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Seattle Parks and the Seattle Preschool Program,” said Andrew A. Jay, CEO of Tiny Trees. “Over 60% of children in our Seattle Parks classrooms receive free tuition or financial assistance (plus a free Alaskan Fishermen rain suit!). Together with the City of Seattle we have created affordable, high quality classrooms where children receive a great education, and a joyful childhood. One full of play, adventure, and wonder in the natural world.”

SPR’s goal is to sponsor sites for high quality preschool in Seattle’s parks and ensure affordability, accessibility, and high quality by requiring providers participate in the City’s Preschool Program, which was approved by Seattle voters in 2014 to make preschool opportunities available for all Seattle 3- and 4-year-old children. Providing opportunities for families and children to connect to the natural world is in keeping with SPR’s values of supporting healthy people, a healthy environment and strong communities.