Why Does Licensure Matter?
A pathway to licensure for nature-based education:
1. Ensures high quality programs with consistent reporting and safety requirements.
Right now, schools are operating under waivers and exemption statuses. With a licensure option, programs wanting to facilitate nature-based education in a fully outdoor setting will be streamlined. Licensed programs
receive routine audits conducted by state licensing specialist to ensure programs are meeting quality standards and following best practices.
- Increases access and equity.
Licensure also means streamlining applications for subsidizes services should the families want to pursue that option. Without a pathway to licensure, nature-based programs are not accessible to working families. We believe that education should be accessible and a large component of that is making it accessible to parents and guardians.
- Licensure opens up job opportunities, helps small businesses and increases childcare capacity in Colorado.
Licensure would give increased opportunity for more practitioners who are passionate about nature-based education to open programs, with a viable business plan, thereby reducing the state's deficit in the number of available childcare and early education programs.
The First Pilot in CO
In winter of 2017, a CO Outdoor Nature-Based license pilot was created. Since the creation of the pilot, programs have requested to join and have been denied access. The pilot ultimately included a single program, and there has been no summary of data collected, or a plan regarding the creation of an Outdoor Nature-Based license based on the pilot outcomes.
The Licenses in WA & Beyond
In 2017, Washington State conducted an Outdoor Preschool Pilot which ran from 2017-2021. After completing the four year study, which included more than 14 programs, Washington created the Washington Touchstone Standards and implemented a permanent Outdoor Preschool license. Washington opted for a large-scale grant program that paired with local school districts, which is currently not part of what the Colorado Collective is seeking this session.
According to Natural Start Alliance, there are 585 Nature-Based preschools operating across the United States, with 31 housed in CO. Several states are now working on an Outdoor Preschool license or other way to have ONBs as part of their system.