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Ijams Nature Preschool now offering a full-time option

"I really do think that we'll have a bigger demand now that COVID is here," Education Director Jennie McGuigan said.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Nature Preschool at Ijams Nature Center brings learning outside.

That teaching model is one reason why Education Director Jennie McGuigan said they're getting increased interest for the fall semester. 

"Parents have been calling nonstop, wanting to see when we're going to start programming, when can they get their kid outside, when can they start giving their child interaction out of the house. So, I really do think that we'll have a bigger demand now that COVID is here," McGuigan said.

When the school launched in 2018, it was only part time, but they're in the process of getting a full-time license with the state next month.

McGuigan said it's been an exciting process because other nature programs are looking to them for guidance. 

"We're kind of setting the groundwork for other nature centers (schools) to pop up in other places. It's definitely something, through this COVID pandemic, a lot of schools are turning to the outdoor environment to have safer spaces where you can be socially distant and still learn really well," McGuigan said.

At first glance, tuition can be a deterrent for many parents, but McGuigan said sponsorships have allowed them to offer scholarships to students. They hope to expand the scholarship program as the years go on. 

"We're noticing that every time we advertise anywhere that we have people calling and saying, 'can I do this? Can I do this?' and we're like, 'yes.' We have a few spots left but we're filling up," McGuigan said. 

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