At First Lutheran Preschool’s outdoor classroom in Ellicott City, Md., God’s creation guides the curriculum. In Houston, the divine enters into daily activities at Zion Lutheran Preschool. As these ELCA schools accompany the youngest learners, they’re building life skills that strengthen their congregations and communities.

Recognizing the importance of more green time and less screen time, First looked to its own backyard. “Many churches are on property that is bigger than a normal school would have,” said Jenny James, preschool director at First.

“If you can use your property in that way to help our society grow and get reconnected with nature, I think that’s a really great thing.”

Now the research, grants, zoning approval and work needed to make their outdoor classroom a reality have expanded learning, play and worship….