LEXINGTON, Ky. — Evergreen Nature School opened over the summer, and it gives young children the opportunity to learn through play by exploring their surrounding environment.
In rain or shine, the school’s director, Francine Cortes, educates children who are enrolled in the program.
Her son began preschool in 2013 when they were living in Colombia and Cortes started questioning the amount of schoolwork that was being assigned to him.
“It was always very evident to me that when he was little, in preschool, I just always felt very guilty because there weren’t a lot of spaces for him to play and explore outside,” said Cortes.
In June, she moved to Lexington and opened the Evergreen Nature School that same month. Cortes was drawn to the city because of its parks and wildlife.
Her school is not a brick and mortar building. It follows a nomadic style by holding daily classes at different parks throughout the city. Each day consists of things like nature walks, exploration and music. She follows a math and reading curriculum and even integrates Spanish into the children’s day. All of this is done with a focus on nature and play.
The goal is to keep kids wanting to learn. According to a 2018 brief by UNICEF, play in the preschool years enables children to make sense of the world around them and, while often neglected between the ages of six and eight, play-based learning can strengthen learning motivation and outcomes.
“We get a lot of time to play outdoors and to learn about our emotions and use mindfulness to kind of connect with ourselves and so that’s one of the things that we love about being outside is that through connecting with nature, we connect with ourselves,” said Cortes.
The school currently works with children ages three to eight, but Cortes is looking to raise the age limit to 13 and further expand the program.