Outdoor Nursery School welcomes children aged 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years old. Our mission is to prepare our children to become independent, self-assured, and ready to meet the next challenge through play-based learning. We offer opportunities for children to experience the joy of life while they learn.
In addition to being early childhood education certified, each of our teachers brings special qualities to the school and each feels our school in the woods is a special place to help children develop fundamental concepts basic to language, reading, mathematics, science, and social studies.
The basic tenets of our school have changed little since its founding in 1933. We believe children are happier and healthier outside. In an age of specialization and emphasis on advanced academic achievement, Outdoor Nursery School stands for its belief that children can and need to learn through play.
Outdoor Nursery School is licensed in the state of Maryland and also classified under the Internal Revenue Code as a 501(c)(3) public charity.
PEI license #23253 MDSE license # 200009
In the early 1930s, Bertha Belt, a Bank Street College graduate with a commitment to young children, went door to door in Chevy Chase, Maryland, persuading her neighbors on Meadow Lane that the nursery school concept was important to a healthy early childhood. The "Out-of-Doors School" opened in the fall of 1933 with ten children and two teachers. An indoor-outdoor setting was created in the basement and backyard of Mrs. Belt's home.
In 1954, the school moved to its present site, called "In the Woods." The property consists of its Arts & Crafts-style 14-room house, built in 1910, and the 2 1/2 acres of gardens, woods and yards that encircle the house. Each main room has its own access to the outdoor yards, where the today's students spend the vast majority of their school day. The school has expanded to include five preschool classes with a head teacher certified by the Maryland State Department of Education and an assistant teacher (most also certified) in each group.
While the school's history goes back over 80 years, the story of its home stretches back to the turn of the last century. In 1905, inventor Alexander Graham Bell's daughter, Marian, and her husband, the noted horticulturalist David Fairchild, bought 43 acres of land known as "Clean Drinking Water" on what was then the outskirts of Chevy Chase. The family enjoyed picnics there, and Mr. Bell had a hut in which he performed some of his experiments. Mr. Fairchild brought horticultural specimens from his travels in Asia and planted them on the property to see how they would fare in our climate. When he determined that the Japanese cherry blossom trees would thrive here, he invited a boy from each school in the District of Columbia to dig up a tree for transplanting. They came in the spring of 1908, single file through the woods, and returned with their trees on the trolley of the Chevy Chase Land Company.
A few of those original cherry blossoms - along with many other stately trees - still grace the property, providing gracious shade and beauty. The site has housed the Outdoor Nursery School for over 60 years now, and children continue to dig its soil, climb upon enormous tree trunks, marvel at blooming flowers and incorporate the nature of the space in their everyday play. They take with them the lasting legacy of preservation, curiosity, and confidence.
"Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn."
- O. Fred Donaldson