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Our Story

The mission of Boston Outdoor Preschool Network is to provide programs that meet the developmental needs of the whole child, while initiating them into a lifelong relationship with the natural world.

Sarah Besse and Shela Sinelien met in 2016 while in graduate school for Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College.  As educators in the public schools, they noticed that their preschool children felt most alive when engaging with the natural world and their local community.  They began to dream about expanding opportunities for nature-based education.  Around the same time, Sara Murray began taking her first grade students outside to learn and play.  Happily, Sarah, Shela and Sara joined forces to open the first BOPN class at the Arnold Arboretum in September 2019. 


BOPN arose out of our mutual desire to provide a joyfully muddy childhood fostering curiosity, movement, music, art, science, and connection with nature and each other. 


After a joyful first year outdoors at the Arboretum, we opened a new program at Massachusetts Horticultural Society (Wellesley) in September 2020.  We most recently launched a preschool class at Pine Banks Park (Malden) in October 2022.

BOPN's goal is to provide equitable access to nature-based early education.

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BOPN in the News

Read BOPN news features and current articles featuring the benefits of nature education.

Why Choose BOPN?


BOPN faculty members  bring experience:

  • in public school

  • private school,

  • Montessori education

  • early childhood development

  • nature immersive education.


A growing body of research has found positive impacts from frequent play in natural settings.

These cover the entire range of holistic child development: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, creative and spiritual. 


BOPN combines early childhood & environmental education by following the NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence in Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs. 


We give over 10% of annual tuition revenue in the form of scholarships to families who would not otherwise be able to access nature programming.  


BOPN encourages stewardship in natural spaces. 

We have multiple programs for mixed ages to promote community across ages.

Multiple Locations

We're growing! 

BOPN programs can be found throughout the Greater Boston area at nonprofit host sites as well as in some Boston Public Schools



Sara Murray, M.Ed.

Shela Sinelien, M.Ed.

Sarah Besse, M.Ed.

The Importance of Play-Based Learning

"In a wave of cognitive 'reform' in the 1970s, most of the play-based kindergartens in Germany were changed into centers for cognitive achievement. 

However, research comparing 50 play-based classes with 50 early-learning centers found that by age ten the children who had played excelled over the others in a host of ways. 

They were more advanced in reading and mathematics and they were better adjusted socially and emotionally in school.  They excelled in creativity and intelligence, oral expression and 'industry.'"  (citation)

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