Oregon Passes Momentous Outdoor Preschool Legislation

Media Contact: Lynny Brown, Healthy Environments Partner, Willamette Partnership
lynny@willamettepartnership.org, 503.303.1114

Oregon Passes Momentous Outdoor Preschool Legislation

The Outdoor Early Learning Alliance of Oregon expects new licensure rules to open up critical outdoor learning experiences for the next generation.

By Lynny Brown


July 28, 2023 (Portland, OR) Oregon is officially able to fully license outdoor preschools. The Outdoor Early Learning Alliance of Oregon has been pushing for outdoor preschool licensure through House Bill (HB) 2717, which passed in the 2023 legislative session.

With solid advocacy training from the Children’s Agenda, ten people provide oral testimony on outdoor preschool and over 50 advocates submitted written testimony to help move this bill forward.

Why Do We Need Outdoor Preschool?

In the age of increasingly sedentary lifestyles, mental health concerns, and chronic diseases among young children, outdoor preschools offer many benefits at a critical stage of a child’s development. Outdoor preschools provide high-quality education, safe learning environments, and are good for a preschooler’s physical health, mental health, learning, and development. All children should have access to these benefits.

Physical Health Benefits

  • Promotes physical activity, reduces sedentary behaviors, and improves overall cardiorespiratory fitness

Mental Health Benefits

Learning & Developmental Benefits

  • Supports all developmental learning domains
  • Supports creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Enhances cognitive skills and higher executive functioning

Yet, many families lack access to outdoor and nature-based experiences, and these inequities often fall across socioeconomic and racial lines. Licensing outdoor preschools is a simple way for the state to increase capacity and create more equitable and accessible childcare options for all families.

“There are so many families who wanted to access outdoor preschool but couldn’t because of limited hours or resources… Many children will now be able to attend,” said Rachel Turner, Director and Lead Teacher at Hazelwood Outdoor Kindergarten.

Providing a path to licensure for outdoor preschools now allows existing outdoor preschools to operate for full days and serve more children. It will help increase the state’s capacity for child care by offering an alternative, accessible option for parents who need full day care but are currently unable to access it.

Licensure also means low-income families and children enrolled in services such as Early Intervention will have access to outdoor preschool through subsidized systems that provide financial support, personalized coaching, and resources for the child’s learning experience.


HB 2717 adds outdoor child care program to the definition of “child care facility” and requires Early Learning Council to adopt rules governing the operation of outdoor child care programs. In doing so, Oregon offers more options for families in Oregon.

“Kids need access to the outdoors and this bill provides a pathway for expanded outdoor early learning programs. Licensure pathways for outdoor preschools is an exciting solution for Oregon, where we are so fortunate to have so many amazing natural areas that we can leverage for high-quality early learning opportunities. This bill removes barriers and increases access to preschool offerings in our state,” said Representative Courtney Neron (D-Wilsonville).

The Outdoor Early Learning Alliance of Oregon and Willamette Partnership encourage you to follow-up on outdoor preschool. All follow-up interviews can be scheduled through Lynny Brown, lynny@willamettepartnership.org. You can learn more about outdoor preschool and its benefits at https://licensingoutdoorpreschoolsinoregon.org/.

Photo credit: Tina Floersch, Unsplash


Willamette Partnership (https://willamettepartnership.org)

Willamette Partnership is a conservation nonprofit with a deep commitment to helping build stronger, healthier, and more equitable communities that are sustained through nature. 

Outdoor Early Learning Alliance of Oregon (https://licensingoutdoorpreschoolsinoregon.org/)

OELAO’s mission is to promote policy changes in Oregon that result in a path to licensure for outdoor preschools, creating equitable and accessible opportunities for all families.

Lynny Brown (she/her) works to improve health by connecting people to the outdoors. Taking a strength-based and relationship-based approach to partnerships, Lynny works on projects that lie at the intersection of health and the environment. Over the past year, Lynny has worked with the Oregon Health & Outdoors Initiative on the Outdoor Preschool project.


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