Nature “Kindergarten”

Before graduating from my Education program I knew I would be implementing nature programs in my classes. I didn’t know what the nature programs would entail, but I had rough ideas of beach explorations, fresh water studies, forest walks and the like. I didn’t know that I would obtain a teaching job in a rural town and as a city girl I couldn’t have guessed the amount of lush, beautiful forest that would engulf my school. In my first year of teaching I did do a bit of beach exploration, but not nearly enough to satisfy my thirst. Perhaps I gained too much confidence far too quickly, but in my second year of teaching (a small K/1 class) I jumped feet first into the forest and now nobody can drag me out (and if they did I’d have 19 very unhappy children!). I didn’t know that I was going to be a primary teacher, all I knew was that I was going to be spending an awful lot of time in nature with my students – regardless of grade. So when I decided to start writing “Playing With Sticks” I thought long and hard about including “Nature Kindergarten” in the tagline. Every time I see it I consider removing it. “Nature Kindergarten” implies that it is only 4 and 5-year-olds experiencing nature. This just isn’t the case. This year I have 4 grades: Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3 and every single one of them is outside in the forest with me running over sticks; jumping off logs; swinging on branches; climbing trees; looking at mushrooms, leaves, bugs, and slugs; building forts. “Nature Kindergarten” does not tell the whole truth.

I am blessed that B.C.’s early primary teachers are starting to become more interested in the importance of outdoor play and exploration. It is interesting to me that the emphasis is on Kindergarten: evident by the number of “Nature Kindergartens” popping up throughout the province. There have always been K-12 teachers in B.C. who have taken it upon themselves to ensure that their students receive outdoor education opportunities. It is these teachers that I have learned from the most. I can only hope that more teachers, of all grades, will continue to see the benefits of nature play and exploration with children and youth. This is worthy of more than 5 minutes of fame.

 

I have developed a strong belief that outdoor play and exploration should be a gradual process of learning (similar to how Math or Language Arts is structured throughout the grades). I believe that outdoor play should not be forgotten in the later grades. We as primary teachers should provide opportunities for our students to establish a strong nature base, upon which intermediate, middle, and high school teachers can build upon. It is this continuum of nature development that interests me and drives me to continue with the program that I have started.

“Phases of Nature Development: Perpetual Motion”

The children never walk to the forest line, they RUN!
Children of all ages head towards the forest.
Children from the ages of 4 to 8 plan their play for the afternoon.

 

After two years of exploring the forest the children have lost any inhibitions: full on tree love!

 

7 Comments

  • Hello. How can I enroll my daughter in a nature school like this. I live in comox is their one that is close. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi, Angela –
      The closest full day public school program that I know of is in Sooke. However, MANY teachers engage in outdoor education & nature play with their primary classrooms in SD 71 (Comox Valley SD). I am sure if you called around to your local schools that you would find that many teachers do so. Then, you could ask to meet with the principle to discuss how much is done outside.
      Now that I think of it, several years ago there was a school from SD 71 @ the Comox Farmer’s Market obtaining signatures to help their r public school gain funding to have an outdoor learning space – if you called the SD 71 board office, they would have more information on this.
      Alternatively, there are after school programs like the Young Naturalists of the Comox Valley: http://comoxvalleynaturalist.bc.ca/young-naturalists-families/hat.
      Also, I might contact http://www.firemaker.org/ if I were you. I have learned from Wes Gietz before. He is an absolutely wonderful educator. They would know of specific sources in Courtenay.
      To my knowledge, there are no outdoor specific schools in Courtenay, but there were several after school, weekend, holiday groups for young children.
      I hope this helps.
      Please feel free to email me @ playingwithstickscanada@gmail.com if you require further assistance.

      Reply
    • Hi there.. Could you share a not for profit international association.. http://www.NaturePedagogy.com. Its goal is to connect Nature Kindergartens around the world and increase parents access to them.
      http://www.NaturePedagogy.com. Many Thanks

      Reply
  • Hi, I just found your site and have been thrilled to read your posts, as I am in the process of taking my mostly outdoor mixed age kindergarten fully outdoors. I, too, am on Vancouver Island and am wondering where you are! I am located in the Comox Valley. Are we close?

    Reply
    • Hi, Laura,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. And, Yay! That is so wonderful to hear that you will be taking your children outside (all of the time?). There are so many Vancouver Island educators embracing the many benefits that nature has for their students. Yes, we are close. Do you work for the public schools?

      Ms. Tremayne

      Reply
  • Hi there. enjoyed reading your pages. I am lecturing on the Nature Kindergartens in Vancouver at the moment, travelled over from Scotland. I am back in April, so if you want to keep in touch just let me know. You might enjoy my book nature Kindergartens and forest schools published by Mindstretchers http://WWW.mindstretchers.co.uk
    cheers
    Claire Warden

    Reply
    • Hi,

      I have been on hiatus from my blog since Christmas … Where are you lecturing in April? I find the Nature Kindergartens in the UK very inspiring and have dreams of UK parents enthusiastically supporting nature programs! My biggest stumbling block right now is educating families on the importance of nature play. I come across a lot of individuals who do not see the benefits of it and would still prefer to have children sit in desks and rows. I might be interested in going to one of your lectures – where could I find that information?

      Ms Tremayne

      Reply

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