Happy hearts and happy faces,
Happy play in grassy places --
That was how in ancient ages,
Children grew to kings and sages.
(Robert Louis Stevenson)
On a rare, cool, grey, school day in September, I arrived to interview Helen Andresen, the owner of Iliff Preschool, Kindergarten, and School-Age Summer Camp. I was warmly greeted and given a comprehensive tour of the homey space. I was immediately struck and thrilled by the vast amount of unique outdoor play space. Eight separate age-appropriate playgrounds reflect the overall philosophy that the outdoor classroom is just as important as the indoor classroom for learning. Nearly every classroom is immediately open to the classroom playground so children can move seamlessly between in and outdoor space to explore, discover, and learn. These spaces are referred to as Outdoor Learning Labs.
A main goal is for the children to be outside as much as possible.
Research indicates that children who play outside are “smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious” than children who spend more time indoors. Other studies related to the benefits of children being outdoors include building confidence, promoting creativity and imagination, teaching responsibility, providing different stimulation, getting children moving, making children think, and reducing stress and fatigue. (www.childmind.org)
Iliff staff guide children in the Outdoor Learning Labs to use the environment as a place of learning and experimentation. The children and staff
The Iliff Preschool, Kindergarten, and Summer Camp was established in 1963. The overall educational philosophy is a blended one of play-based, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, natural influences, experiential, integrated curriculum and projects, learning by doing, whole child focused, embedded curriculum standards, and an overall “have fun” philosophy.
With a low student to staff ratio and open enrollment year-round,
eight different classrooms accommodate
Families love the school for many reasons including integrated instructional strategies, a focus on music, art, STEM, yoga, and dance.
As Helen Andresen summed, the school was “built on love and desire for the good of the community.” When you visit the school and see all the happy hearts and happy faces; you can’t help but conclude, she has achieved and surpassed her objective. This school is magical.
For more information, please visit www.iliffpreschool.com
Iliff Preschool, Kindergarten, and School-Age Summer Camp
4140 E. Iliff Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80222
This article was written by Kristin Kleimann and was published in the December 2017 issue of "Life in the Park" magazine for the University Park, Denver neighborhood.
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