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New Kindergarten Program Aims to Fight 'Nature Deficit Disorder'

Riverbend Environmental Education Center is creating a program where nature is the main learning environment.

You may not have heard the term "Nature Deficit Disorder," but you may wonder where are all the children as you drive by our sprawling but empty lawns during much of the year.

Some experts say that children are spending so much time indoors that they link obesity, attention disorders, and depression to a lack of exposure to the natural world.

Riverbend Environmental Education Center in Gladwyne is picking up on a wave of parents' desire to foster and support the love of nature in young children. Starting in the fall the center will be offering a morning and afternoon kindergarten program at their 30-acre property.

Children will be transported by bus to the center to or from Gladwyne Elementary School during the middle of each day. Applications are being accepted now for the program, which will accept 15 students for each session. Before and after care will also be options.

The program will complement the school district's half-day kindergarten program, said Laurie Bachman, executive director. The nature-based curriculum also aligns with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards.

"The kids will be spending a significant chunk of time outside," Bachman said, adding that even in winter they will not shy away from outdoor time.

"There's this whole place to explore," she said. "And it's guided by teachers."

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