Getting mud on your clothes is encouraged at a new preschool in South Knoxville where students learn and play entirely outdoors.

Knox Forest School is halfway through its first year, and founder Sara Otis says she believes in its unique teaching method more every day.

"We have this philosophy if kids are out in this natural environment, it is the best way for them to grow and develop as a human," Otis said.

Forest schools are popular in Europe, but quickly spreading in the United States as some parents recognize a growing disconnect between modern children and nature.

"We have this philosophy if kids are out in this natural environment, it is the best way for them to grow and develop as a human," Sara Otis said.

"Richard Louv coined the phrase, 'nature deficiency disorder,' and I think people are starting to see that in their kids as they've protected them a lot from just being able to explore and develop and take risks. We want that for them. We want them to be able to take risks and get dirty," Otis said.

Renee Dudley said when she picks up her daughter from school, she's usually the muddiest.

"Actually I love it," Dudley laughed, adding that the school has built up confidence in her child.

"At Christmas, she actually volunteered at a science center event, and that is something she would have never done in the past, so we've really seen a lot of growth in her," Dudley said.

Knox Forest School opens three days a week, but Otis said they hope to expand in the future.

On Friday, they’re hosting an Art Show at The Hive on Central Street featuring pieces by the students and local artists.