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5 Reasons We Love Our Nature Preschool
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Earth Day Welcome and Giveaway
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Welcome!

5 Reasons We Love Our Nature Preschool

There are a number of preschools in the DC area that I call “outdoor-happy preschools” — places where children are expected to bring weather-appropriate clothing and go outside every day. I was heartened to learn about the options when I was doing research for an article on TheDCMoms.com.

I was inspired to do the piece after hearing about the newly formed Eastern Ridge School in Vienna, Virginia, a reimagining of what was previously called Discovery Woods and now a non-profit organization formed by teachers and parents. The program at ERS goes from age two through 10.

Two teachers from ERS came to a networking meeting of an organization of environmental educators called NoVA Outside. (Make sure to check out their “Arts in Nature” 3rd annual Early Childhood Outside conference on Saturday, April 26). It was at that meeting that I met Jessica Culverhouse, author of today’s piece and now a parent at ERS, which is having an open house on April 27 for prospective parents for school programs in 2014-15 and for summer camp.

Here is Jessica Culverhouse’s “5 Reasons We Love Our Nature Preschool”

Just a couple of months ago, my 2-year-old son, James, started at The Eastern Ridge School, a progressive, nature- and arts-based school in Great Falls. With my background in science and environmental education, I was already familiar with the research on the long-term benefits of unstructured outdoor play and constructivist and project-based learning on students. We knew that in choosing Eastern Ridge, we’d help our son to develop confidence, maturity, critical thinking skills, and a respect for the natural world. What I wasn’t prepared for were the amazing short-term benefits of such an environment on my young son.

Here are just 5 of the many reasons we love our nature preschool.

1. He is happy. What else matters, really? James loves school. He isn’t quite equipped to tell us this in so many words, but he sure tries! Each day we receive photos and videos of James learning, exploring, and having fun with his teachers and friends. When I drop him off in the morning, it doesn’t take long before he is busily engaged with an activity. When my husband arrives to pick him up, he excitedly shows his dad everything he has been working on that day.

Eastern Ridge School toddler in woods

2. He eats better. We struggled for the first two years of James’ life with low weight – he was just not interested in food. He is now at a healthy weight and happily eats 3 meals and several snacks each day. Whether this is due to the active days at Eastern Ridge or the delicious, healthful food served for lunch and snacks is unclear, but we are happy to see his appetite grow. (As a side note, I must reiterate how amazing the food is at Eastern Ridge. Raw veggies for morning snack, healthful whole grains, proteins, fruits, and vegetables for lunch, and a yogurt parfait for an afternoon treat. We should all eat so well!)

3. He sleeps better. With plenty of fresh air and active outdoor play, James naps well at school and sleeps hard at night. Of course this is very important for his growth and development, but I must say I enjoy the additional rest, myself!

4. He is nurtured. The teachers and staff at Eastern Ridge School are caring, creative, and passionate. James is so well taken care of and the days are paced so naturally that I never worry that he is experiencing stress or needs additional attention.

5. He is dirty. Yes, we have lots of laundry, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Muddy pants, wet socks, and paint-soaked sweatshirts come home with James every day.  In my book there is no better indicator of whether a child had a great day than the (lack of) cleanliness of his clothing.

Eastern Ridge School toddler holding worm

Jessica Culverhouse works in fundraising for an environmental nonprofit. She is mama to James and wife to David, a volunteer Master Naturalist, and a former environmental educator and Biology teacher who loves nothing more than spending time outside with her family.

Mindful Healthy Life of Metro DC would like to run more profiles of other special places that have found a way to get children in the shadow of the nation’s capital to connect to nature. Share ideas in the comments and check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.

Earth Day Welcome and Giveaway

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with books and music make it easy – and fun – to be green!

For the initial launch of Mindful Healthy Life of Metro DC, we’re giving away a few homegrown gems: a copy of the wonderful CD Earth Day Everyday from Solar Publishing, a great company based in Maryland, and a copy of the wonderful children’s book “The Bicycle Fence,”  the first in the series “Recycling Creatively with L.T.” by D.C.-based landscaper Tom Noll.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I first met Robyn Ringgold of Solar Publishing at the 2007 DC Green Festival (which returns to town this spring, May 31-June 1, 2014) and have loved her books ever since.  Back then, I bought and instantly loved My Mom Hugs Trees, and when I saw her read from My Mom Eats Tofu in 2010, I fell in love with the book’s message of caring about where your food comes from (whether you eat soy or not!). Robyn is a local treasure! I caught up with her last month at the second annual Grow Your Health Festival and was excited to get another copy of the fabulous CD our family loves.

Robyn’s newest book, My Mom Stands on Her Head is a beautiful celebration of yoga, with the same delightful artwork by Alexandria artist Vidya Vasudevan. I picked that one up at the 2013 Green Festival where I met Tom at a shared table and learned of his new book series that aims to share fun ways to get kids excited about recycling. When I ran into Tom again earlier this month at the School Environmental Action Showcase sponsored by NoVA Outside earlier, he donated copies of The Bicycle Fence for this giveaway and showed me proofs of the next book – about farm fresh eggs – due out in May. We’ll sit down with Tom for a Q&A and do a giveaway about that when it becomes available, and we’ll also be hearing from Robyn and Vidya in guest posts the near future about their work and how they balance it with parenting.

This is what we’re about here at Mindful Healthy Life of Metro DC: sharing news about events and opportunities for involvement; showcasing local businesses, organizations and practitioners who are committed to health and well-being; connecting readers with great local resources that support healthy families, and giving a space for parents to share their own journeys, including the bumps along the way. After years of wishing a site like this existed to help me in my parenting journey, I’m excited to launch it to share news on local parenting topics and ways to live naturally as a family. The blog will include profiles of local businesses and organizations and guest posts by people who have made it their passion – and sometimes their profession – to be healthy and mindful in their own families and to help parents find a holistic way of living that feels vibrant and sustainable. We hope you enjoy what you learn here and that you will consider sharing your own story (link to submission guidelines) with us. And be sure to add events to our calendar and businesses and groups to our directory.

Welcome!

We’re so happy you found Mindful Healthy Life of Metro DC. Our aim here is to make it easy for you to find the resources you need to raise your family in a natural and holistic way in the DC Metro Area.

This site is still in its infancy launching on Earth Day 2014, but we’re excited about the three components it will feature.

  • We’ll feature a blog with posts by and about local parents and practitioners with profiles of local businesses and happenings of interest to those pursuing a mindful, healthy life.
  • A calendar with listings for events that help support our health and our connection to nature.
  • A resource directory with listings of practitioners, wellness centers, studios and other organizations that support healthy family living.

Visitors are welcome to post events to the calendar and to submit entries to the resource directory. Please help us connect and to grow this community!

We’re happy to consider guest posts. Please see our submissions page for details.

Until we get our feet wet, we won’t be accepting ads or sponsored posts per se, but we are happy to offer giveaways and to do promotions. We appreciate all shout-outs and sharing about our site. Please sign up for email updates to the site via the “Subscribe” button on the sidebar.

We are just happy to be here for now but look forward to building this site into a sustainable business that would pay for itself and still allow its creator to pursue a healthy family life!

Please visit our About page for more about how this site began.

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