Discovering Nature Classrooms in Early Childhood (Video #191)
- Articles, Blog

Discovering Nature Classrooms in Early Childhood (Video #191)


WE ARE RAISING–OUR SOCIETY IS RAISING A GENERATION
OF CHILDREN THAT DON’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY OUTSIDE. THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO ROLL IN THE GRASS OR
DIG FOR WORMS OR JUMP IN A PUDDLE. THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO OUTSIDE BECAUSE
THEY ARE CONSTANTLY PLUGGED INTO IPADS AND SMART PHONES AND COMPUTERS AND LAPTOPS. AND RESEARCH IS SHOWING US THERE IS A HUGE
DEFICIT IN BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. SO TO ANSWER THAT CHALLENGE, NATURE CLASSROOMS
ARE SPRINGING UP ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES, AND IT WAS AN IMPORTANT CORE VALUE OF OUR
PROGRAM HERE THAT WE FIND A WAY TO RECONNECT CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES WITH THE NATURAL
WORLD. OUTDOOR NATURE CLASSROOMS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
HAVE MANY, MANY BENEFITS. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT IT IS VERY GOOD FOR
IS REALLY ACADEMIC PROGRESS. AND I SAY THAT ONE FIRST, NOT BECAUSE IT IS
THE MOST IMPORTANT, BUT BECAUSE ACADEMIC PROGRESS IS SOMETHING THAT MANY PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED
ABOUT. AND WE KNOW THAT CHILDREN WHO HAVE OUTDOOR
EXPERIENCES, WE CAN ACTUALLY DOCUMENT THE ACHIEVEMENT DEVELOPMENT OF THOSE CHILDREN
IN THE AREA OF SOCIAL SCIENCE, READING, AND WRITING, AND SCIENCE, ALL OF THOSE AREAS OF
ACHIEVEMENT ARE BETTER WHEN CHILDREN HAVE NATURE EXPERIENCES. WE ALSO KNOW THAT CHILDREN ARE MORE ENTHUSIASTIC
ABOUT LEARNING. SO ENTHUSIASM AND ENGAGEMENT WHEN THEY HAVE
NATURAL OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES IS MUCH HIGHER WHICH TIES INTO THE ACADEMIC LEARNING ALSO
BECAUSE THEY SEE THE REASON TO LEARN THOSE ACADEMIC SKILLS AND PRACTICE THOSE ACADEMIC
SKILLS WHEN THEY ARE OUT STUDYING THINGS IN NATURE. WE ALSO KNOW THAT CHILDREN WHO HAVE OUTDOOR
EXPERIENCES DO BETTER IN TERMS OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTION. SO IN TERMS OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTION, WE ARE
TALKING ABOUT CREATIVITY. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING, AND
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE ABILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO FOCUS AND TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY
ARE DOING. SO WE KNOW ATTENTIONAL SKILLS WHICH ARE EXECUTIVE
FUNCTION SKILLS, THOSE ARE MUCH BETTER FOR CHILDREN WHO HAVE OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES ON A
DAILY BASIS. CHILDREN WHO HAVE TIME OUTSIDE ARE MUCH MORE
FOCUSED INSIDE. THEY ARE ABLE TO DEVELOP IMPULSE CONTROL AND
THEY ARE ABLE TO STAY WITH ACTIVITIES AND COMPLETE ACTIVITIES. SO YOU HAVE FEWER BEHAVIORAL INCIDENTS WITH
CHILDREN WHO HAVE OUTDOOR TIME WHERE THEY ARE REALLY ENGAGED WITH NATURE, AND YOU ALSO
HAVE FEWER IMPULSE ISSUES. ONE OF THE QUESTIONS THAT TEACHERS OFTEN ASK
IS WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF NATURE ON CHILDREN WHO HAVE SPECIFIC ATTENTIONAL PROBLEMS? I HAVE HAD TEACHERS TELL ME THAT THEY DON’T
WANT TO TAKE THE CHILDREN OUTSIDE BECAUSE IT WINDS THEM UP, BECAUSE IT IS TOO STIMULATING
FOR THEM. IN REALITY, THE RESEARCH SHOWS THE OPPOSITE. CHILDREN WITH ADHD WHO HAVE EXPERIENCES OUTDOORS
HALF AN HOUR OR MORE ACTUALLY HAVE REDUCED SYMPTOMS. THEY ARE MUCH MORE ABLE TO CONCENTRATE. THEY CAN FOCUS FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME
WHEN THEY ARE IN THE CLASSROOM. WELL ONE OF THE THINGS I THINK WE HAVE TO
UNDERSTAND IS WHEN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ADHD OR ADD OR MANY OF THE OTHER CHALLENGES THAT
WE HAVE WITH CHILDREN, IT IS AN ISSUE OF WHAT IS GOING ON WITHIN THE BRAIN. AND WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE BRAIN IS WHEN WE
ARE STRESSED, WE HAVE A HORMONE CALLED CORTISOL WHICH IS — WHICH AFFECTS THE THINKING OF
THE BRAIN. HIGH LEVELS OF CORTISOL OCCUR WHEN YOU ARE
UNDER STRESS. AND WHEN YOU HAVE CHILDREN WHO ARE OUTDOORS,
CORTISOL LEVELS ACTUALLY DROP. SO IT HAS BECOME RECOGNIZED THAT NATURE EXPERIENCES
ARE MEDICALLY, MEDICALLY A WAY TO DEAL WITH SOME OF THESE MORE CHALLENGING SITUATIONS
THAT CHILDREN ARE FACING. IN FACT, THE EFFECT OF NATURE HAS BEEN SO
GREAT IN TERMS OF THOSE SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL SKILLS AND IN TERMS OF REDUCED CORTISOL, SOME PEOPLE
CALL IT NATURE’S PHARMACY. ONE OF THE THINGS TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT ALL
CHILDREN BENEFIT SOCIALLY AND EMOTIONALLY FROM BEING OUTSIDE. ONE OF THE FACTORS THAT WE KNOW IS THAT IT
DEVELOPS RESILIENCY IN CHILDREN. WHEN I TALK ABOUT RESILIENT, I TALK ABOUT
BOUNCING BACK, THE ABILITY TO HANDLE ADVERSIVE CONSEQUENCES AND THEN BE ABLE TO LIVE WITH
THOSE AND MOVE ON TO BE REALLY UPSET AND CALM YOURSELF DOWN. THOSE THINGS ARE MUCH MORE POSSIBLE TO DO
THAT WHEN YOU HAVE HAD NATURE EXPERIENCES. THEY ARE MORE ABLE TO HANDLE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS. THEY ARE MORE ABLE TO BOUNCE BACK FROM ADVERSIVE
CONSEQUENCES. ANOTHER ADVANTAGE OF CONNECTING WITH NATURE
IS THE CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT IN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THINGS AFFECT OTHER LIVING THINGS,
AND WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THAT, THEN YOU CAN ALSO DEVELOP A BETTER UNDERSTANDING HOW WHAT
YOU DO AFFECTS OTHER PEOPLE. SO RATHER THAN IT ALL BEING ABOUT THEM AND
THEIR INTERACTIONS, IT ENABLES THEM TO LOOK HOW ONE THING INTERACTS WITH ANOTHER AND TO
DEVELOP EMPATHY FOR THAT. LET’S TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE PHYSICAL
EFFECTS OF BEING IN NATURE. ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT TO FOCUS ON AND THIS
IS RATHER ALARMING, ACTUALLY, IS THE AFFECT ON CHILDREN’S VISION. WE KNOW THAT EXPERIENCES IN NATURE ACTUALLY
SHAPE THE BRAIN AND HOW THE BRAIN PROCESSES, BUT IT ALSO SHAPES THE EYES. SO WE NOW KNOW THAT CHILDREN WHO ARE SPENDING
EXTENSIVE AMOUNTS OF TIME INDOORS ARE NOT DEVELOPING FOR VISION. SO WHAT HAS HAPPENED IS WE HAVE THIS GREAT
INCREASE IN MYOPIA IN THIS COUNTRY. OFTEN PARENTS ARE AFRAID OF CHILDREN GETTING
DIRTY. OFTEN THEY ARE AFRAID OF MUD. OFTEN THEY ARE AFRAID OF REAL OBJECTS LIKE
REAL BUGS. THEY ARE AFRAID OF THOSE THINGS. AND ONE OF THE REASONS IS THEY WANT THEIR
CHILDREN TO BE HEALTHY AND BE HAPPY. BUT WHAT WE NOW KNOW IS THAT CHILDREN WHO
DIG IN THE DIRT, CHILDREN WHO ARE OUT THERE IN THE WOODS, CHILDREN WHO ARE EXPOSED TO
THINGS SUCH AS POISON IVY AND — AND OTHER KINDS OF THINGS LIKE THAT, THAT THOSE CHILDREN,
IN FACT, DEVELOP IMMUNITY. AND THEIR BODY LEARNS HOW TO HANDLE THOSE
EXPERIENCES. WE HAVE, I THINK IN MANY WAYS, GONE OVERBOARD
IN PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN. FOR EXAMPLE, AT OUR UPC DISCOVERY NATURE SUPPORTED
CLASSROOM, WE HAVE SOME VERY LARGE — VERY LARGE PIECES OF WOOD AND VERY LARGE PIECES
OF ROCK. OKAY. AND PEOPLE WILL SAY, “WELL, AREN’T YOU AFRAID
THAT THOSE CHILDREN WILL LIFT THAT ROCK AND DROP IT ON THEIR TOES OR SOMETHING?” SO, MY RESPONSE TO THAT IS CHILDREN NEED TO
HAVE THOSE EXPERIENCES TO LEARN WHAT THEY CAN LIFT AND WHAT THEY CAN’T LIFT. THEY HAVE TO BE ABLE TO CLIMB ON THINGS FOR
POSITION IN SPACE. THEY HAVE TO BE ABLE TO MOVE THINGS THAT ARE
BIGGER THAN THEM, AND IN THE PROCESS OF DOING THAT, THEY LEARN WHAT IS SAFE TO DO AND WHAT
IS NOT SAFE TO DO. WHEN WE FIRST STARTED THE NATURE EXPLORE CLASSROOM
IN ANOTHER SCHOOL I WAS WORKING IN, I REMEMBER WHEN WE WENT OUTSIDE, CHILDREN WALKING IN
THE WOODS LIKE THIS (ARMS CROSSED) THEY WERE AFRAID TO TOUCH ANYTHING. THEY WERE AFRAID TO BE OUT THERE. AFTER MORE TIME IN THE NATURE EXPLORE CLASSROOM,
YES, THIS BECAME OKAY. SO THE BUILDING OF THIS COURAGE IN CHILDREN
TO TRY SOMETHING THAT IS HARD, TO USE YOUR BODY IN DIFFERENT WAYS, IT IS AN IMPORTANT
COMPETENCE THAT CHILDREN HAVE. THE MORE COMPETENCE CHILDREN DEVELOP, THE
BETTER THEY FEEL ABOUT THEMSELVES, BETTER THEIR SELF IMAGE IS. SELF-ESTEEM IS DEVELOPED WHEN CHILDREN BUILD
COMPETENCE, AND THEY LEARN THAT THEY CAN DO THINGS WELL, AND THEY CAN CHALLENGE SOMETHING
AND BE SUCCESSFUL AT IT. AND THAT HAPPENS OUTSIDE. SO AT UPC DISCOVERY, IT WAS A GOAL FOR OUR
NATURE CONNECTIONS COMMITTEE TO GET OUR NATURE CLASSROOM CERTIFIED THROUGH THE ARBOR DAY
FOUNDATION AND DIMENSIONS. SO WITH THAT IN MIND, WHEN WE WORKED WITH
OUR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT, WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE WE INCLUDED THE REQUIRED FEATURES. SO THE FIRST ONE IS THE ENTRYWAY. THE ENTRYWAY IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT SIGNALS
VISUALLY TO THE CHILDREN “THIS IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT. THIS IS NOT SWINGS AND SLIDES. WHEN I GO THROUGH THIS PERGOLA OR THIS BRIDGE”
OR WHATEVER YOUR ENTRY FEATURE IS, IT IMMEDIATELY SIGNALS TO THE CHILDREN “THE PLAY WILL BE
DIFFERENT HERE. THIS IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT.” SO IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE AN ENTRY FEATURE. THE NEXT FEATURE OF THE NATURE CLASSROOM IS
AN OPEN AREA FOR LARGE MUSCLE ACTIVITIES. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT CHILDREN HAVE A SPOT
WHETHER IT IS GRASS OR MULCH OR WHATEVER GROUND COVERING YOU ARE GOING TO DECIDE TO PUT THERE,
IT IS IMPORTANT THERE IS A LARGE ENOUGH AREA FOR CHILDREN TO HAVE LARGE MUSCLE KINDS OF
ACTIVITIES AND PLAY. HERE IN OUR NATURE CLASSROOM, THERE ARE HILLS. SO WHEN YOU GO OUTSIDE, YOU WILL SEE BIG GRASSY
HILLS. WE CALL THEM THE SLEDDING HILLS BECAUSE IN
THE SNOW, WE SLED DOWN THOSE HILLS. THAT’S OUR OPEN AREA. ONE OF THE OTHER FEATURES IS MESSY MATERIALS. MESSY MATERIALS IS — HAS LOGS AND PIECES
OF WOOD, AND BUCKETS AND SHOVELS. IT IS WHERE CHILDREN GET MESSY. IT IS WHERE THEY DIG FOR WORMS AND DIG FOR
BUGS. IT IS WHERE THEY CLIMB ON A BIG LOG AND BUILD
A FORT UNDERNEATH THE LOG AND A CAMPFIRE, LOTS OF PRETENDING. LOTS OF COLLABORATIVE PLAY HAPPENS IN MESSY
MATERIALS, AND, OF COURSE, THEY GET REALLY MESSY. ANOTHER FEATURE OF A CERTIFIED NATURE CLASSROOM
IS THE ART AREA, NATURE ART. IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE AN AREA WHERE CHILDREN
ARE QUIETER. THEIR BODIES ARE CALMER. THEY CAN LISTEN AND OBSERVE AROUND THEM. THEY CAN REPRESENT WHAT THEY SEE WITH CLAY
AND PAINT AND DRAWINGS. RIGHT BESIDE THE NATURE ART IS NATURE MUSIC,
A MUSIC AREA WHERE CHILDREN CAN LISTEN TO THE SOUNDS AROUND THEM, THE BIRDS AND THE
RUSTLE OF THE TREES AND THE GRASSES, AND THEY CAN REPLICATE THAT OR TRY TO REPLICATE THAT. ANOTHER FEATURE OF A CERTIFIED NATURE CLASSROOM
IS A BUILDING OR CONSTRUCTION AREA WHERE CHILDREN CAN USE LARGER MUSCLES AND THEY CAN CONSTRUCT
AND BUILD THINGS AND IN OUR NATURE CLASSROOM IS OUTLAST BLOCKS. THEY ARE GREAT BIG BLOCKS THAT CHILDREN LOVE
TO BUILD WITH AND MAKE FORTS AND DUMP TRUCKS AND WHATEVER IT IS THEY WANT TO BUILD THAT
DAY OUT OF THESE OUTLAST BLOCKS. OUTLAST BLOCKS WITH WEATHER PROOF. WE USE THEM IN ALL KINDS OF WEATHER. CHILDREN BUILD RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THREE
OR FOUR INCHES OF SNOW WITH THE OUTLAST BLOCKS. THAT’S OUR BUILDING AREA. GARDENING ARE PATHWAYS TO PLAY IS ANOTHER
FEATURE OF A CERTIFIED NATURE CLASSROOM. IT IS IMPORTANT TO GIVE CHILDREN THE OPPORTUNITY
TO LEARN ABOUT HOW THINGS GROW, HOW TO PLANT, WHAT IS A SEED? WHAT IS A BULB? HOW DO I PLANT IT? HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF IT? ANOTHER FEATURE OF THE CERTIFIED NATURE AREA,
IS GATHERING SPACE. THE GATHERING SPACE NEEDS TO BE QUITE LARGE
SO IT CAN TAKE A WHOLE GROUP OF CHILDREN. FOR US, THE GATHERING SPACE IS OUR TREE HOUSE. WHEN YOU GO OUTSIDE, YOU WILL SEE A BIG SPACE,
A DECK RATHER THAT SERVES AS OUR TREE HOUSE, BUT IT IS ALSO OUR GATHERING SPACE AS WELL. ANOTHER REQUIRED FEATURE OF NATURE CLASSROOM,
ARE STORAGE AREAS SO THAT TEACHERS NEVER HAVE TO OR PARENTS NEVER HAVE TO GO IN AND OUT
OF A BUILDING TO GET SUPPLIES. I LIKE TO TALK ABOUT KELLERT’S FRAMEWORK OF
LOOKING AT NATURE EXPERIENCES. IF YOU LOOK AT THIS, CAN SEE THAT HE HAS THREE
DIFFERENT CATEGORIES. THE FIRST CATEGORY WHAT HE CALLS “VICARIOUS
EXPERIENCES.” VICARIOUS EXPERIENCES ARE REALLY JUST LEARNING
ABOUT NATURE. SO WE HAVE SUCH THINGS AS BOOKS. WE HAVE VIDEOS. WE HAVE ALL KINDS OF THINGS THAT WE BRING
NATURE IN. SO THE NEXT CATEGORY HE TALKS ABOUT ARE “INDIRECT
EXPERIENCES.” INDIRECT EXPERIENCES ARE THOSE EXPERIENCES
THAT ARE PREPARED IN PREPARED SPACES FOR CHILDREN TO EXPERIENCE NATURE, THAT WOULD HAVE MAYBE
WOOD CLIMBING STRUCTURES INSTEAD OF, YOU KNOW, THE COMPLETELY MANMADE. AND IT WOULD BE ALSO LIKE GOING TO A PARK
IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF AN INDIRECT EXPERIENCE. AND THEN YOU HAVE WHAT ARE CALLED DIRECT CONTACT
EXPERIENCES. AND WE KNOW THAT DIRECT CONTACT EXPERIENCES,
THEY ARE UNSTRUCTURED. IN OTHER WORDS, WE DON’T HAVE A PLAN EXACTLY
WHAT THE CHILDREN ARE GOING TO DO, IT IS IMAGINATIVE. CHILDREN CAN MAKE ANYTHING THEY WANT OUT OF
THAT LOG. IT IS TOTALLY UP TO THE CHILD TO DO.
AND IT IS ALSO EXPLORATORY PLAY. CAN I PICK THIS ROCK UP? NO, IT IS TOO HEAVY. WHAT CAN I DO? IF I WANT TO MOVE THIS, WHAT CAN I MOVE HERE
TO MAKE THIS STRUCTURE TALLER? SO THAT’S WHAT WE CALL EXPLORATORY PLAY. THAT HAPPENS IN ACTUAL DIRECT EXPERIENCES. I THINK A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE EFFECTIVENESS
OF THE KELLERT CONTINUUM AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE FURTHER TO THE RIGHT AND NOT TO JUST
VICARIOUS EXPERIENCES IS IN THIS SERIES OF PAINTINGS. SO I’D LIKE YOU TO LOOK AT THIS PAINTING AND
TELL YOURSELF WHAT IS IN A PAINTING OF. THIS PAINTING IS A PAINTING OF A BUMBLEBEE. AND IT WAS DONE BY FOUR YEAR OLD MADDIE. AND WHEN MADDIE DID THIS PAINTING, THEY HAD
GONE ON A REGULAR FIELD TRIP AND THEY HAD SEEN SOME BEES. WHEN THEY CAME BACK, THEY TALKED ABOUT NOT
ABOUT THE FIELD TRIP, BUT THE FACT THAT THEY HAD SEEN THESE BEES. AND THE TEACHER IN RESPONSE TO THAT GOT OUT
SOME BOOKS THAT HAD PICTURES OF BEES IN IT, AND THEY LOOKED AT THE PICTURES OF THE BEES,
AND THEY TALKED ABOUT IT. SHE READ SOME THINGS FROM THAT. SO SHE WAS VERY RESPONSIVE TO THAT. AND THEN MADDIE WENT OVER TO THE EASEL AND
SHE TOOK THE PAINT AND SHE PAINTED THIS PICTURE OF THE BUMBLEBEE. LATER ON, MADDIE PAINTED THIS PICTURE OF THE
BUMBLEBEE. HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WAS BETWEEN THE FIRST
PAINTING OF THE BUMBLEBEE AND THE SECOND PAINTING OF THE BUMBLEBEE? THE ANSWER IS 45 MINUTES. THIS IS THE SAME CHILD, THE SAME ART MATERIALS. THIS IS NO INSTRUCTION AT ALL IN PAINTING
OR DRAWING, BUT ONE THING HAPPENED. THE CHILDREN WENT OUTSIDE. THEY WERE IN THEIR OUTSIDE PLAY TIME. THIS WAS AFTER MADDIE HAD PAINTED THE FIRST
PAINTING. THEY WENT OUTSIDE, AND THEY SAW A BEE. THE TEACHER CAUGHT THE BEE IN A CUP, IN A
GLASS CUP AND BROUGHT IT IN. THEY LOOK AT THE BEE, THE REAL BEE, AND THEY
WATCHED IT. THEN, MADDIE SPONTANEOUSLY WENT TO THE EASEL
AND PAINTED PAINTING NUMBER TWO. YOU CAN SEE HERE THE EFFECT OF DIRECT CONTACT
WITH NATURE. SO I THINK IT TEACHES US VERY CLEARLY HOW
YOU CAN ONLY GET SO MUCH INFORMATION FROM BOOKS, SO MUCH INFORMATION FROM PROCESSING
WHAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE LEARNED, BUT WHEN YOU SEE IT WITH YOUR OWN EYES, NOT ONLY DO YOU
LEARN A LOT MORE, BUT YOU ARE MOTIVATED TO REPRESENT IT. WHEN WE TALK ABOUT A NATURE CLASSROOM WHICH
IS WHAT WE HAVE AT UPC DISCOVERY, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING IN BETWEEN INDIRECT EXPERIENCES
AND DIRECT EXPERIENCES. SO WE MAINTAIN IT. WE HAVE IT THERE, BUT IT IS A LOT — THERE
IS AN OPEN ENDEDNESS. THERE IS UNSTRUCTURED PLAY. THE CHILDREN ARE ABLE TO MANIPULATE AND USE
DIFFERENT KINDS OF MATERIALS THAT ARE ALL NATURE RELATED. BUT THEN WE ALSO HAVE — WE HAVE SOME AREA
IN WHICH OUR CHILDREN CAN GO OUT, THEY CAN HIKE IN THE WOODS. THEY CAN ACTUALLY PULL THINGS UP AND LOOK
UNDER DEAD LEAVES AND THIS IS NOT A GROOMED AREA OR THEY CAN WALK IN THE CREEK, AND THEY
WALK IN THE CREEK AND THEY PUT THEIR BOOTS ON AND GO OUT THERE, AND THAT’S DIRECT EXPERIENCES. I THINK ONE OF THE BIGGEST BENEFITS OF BEING
IN THE NATURE CLASSROOM IS THE CHANCE TO EXPLORE NATURE HANDS-ON. THEY GET TO ACTUALLY GET INTO THE DIRT AND
PICK UP THE WORMS THEY SEE, OR THEY SEE ON THE SIDEWALK OR WATCH THE BIRDS RATHER THAN
JUST LEARNING ABOUT THAT THROUGH A BOOK AND JUST SITTING AND LISTENING AND TALKING AND
DISCUSSING ABOUT IT, THEY HAVE THEIR HANDS-ON. THEY ARE WATCHING IT, FEELING IT, TOUCHING
IT AND REALLY GETTING INVOLVED WITH IT. SO WE USE THE NATURE CLASSROOM PRETTY MUCH
ON A DAILY BASIS, AS LONG AS THE TEMPERATURE IS ABOVE 25 DEGREES, WE TAKE THE CHILDREN
OUTSIDE. IN THE SUMMER MONTHS OR FALL MONTHS, WE ARE
USING IT WITH WATER PLAY. SO WE HAVE GOT OUR WATERFALL TURN ON OR WE
ARE DOWN AT THE CREEK PLAYING IN THE WATER. BUT EVEN ON COLDER DAYS, WE STILL BUNDLE UP
AND GET OUTSIDE FOR — EVEN IF IT IS JUST FOR A MATTER OF TEN MINUTES, WE WANT TO GET
OUTSIDE AND GET THAT FRESH AIR. I WOULD SAY ONE OF THE BIGGEST BENEFITS WOULD
BE WHEN WE GO OUTSIDE, I NOTICED THE LANGUAGE THAT I HEAR FROM THE TODDLERS. THEY ARE MUCH MORE WILLING TO TALK AND SHARE
WHEN WE ARE OUTSIDE IN THE NATURE ENVIRONMENT. THERE IS MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEM TO EXPLORE
AND THEN THEY NATURALLY ASK QUESTIONS AND MAKE COMMENTS AND AS TEACHERS, WE ARE ABLE
TO ENGAGE THEM MORE VERSUS BEING IN A GYMNASIUM. SOME OF THOSE PROCESS SKILLS WITH CURIOSITY,
I CERTAINLY SEE THAT WHEN THEY ARE DIGGING IN THE MESSY MATERIALS. PERSISTENCE, WE HAVE A LARGE LOG OUT IN OUR
NATURE CLASSROOM, AND THE CHILDREN WANT TO CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THAT. SO IT IS FUN TO WATCH THEM KEEP EXPERIMENTING
AND TRYING GET TO THE TOP, AND THEY ARE SO EXCITED ONCE THEY ACTUALLY GET UP THERE. I SEE OBSERVATION WHEN THEY ARE LOOKING AT
THE BIRDS IN THE BIRD SANCTUARY. I SEE PREDICTION WHEN THEY ARE FLOATING LEAVES
DOWN THE WATER FALL. SO IT IS SOMETHING, YEAH, YOU SEE IT ALL THE
TIME WHEN YOU ARE OUTSIDE. SO I THINK THEY BENEFIT BECAUSE OF THE FREEDOM
MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, THAT THEY CAN EXPLORE. THERE IS NOT REALLY ANY BOUNDARIES. WE HAVE RULES OBVIOUSLY, BUT ANOTHER EXAMPLE
IS THEY HAVE MAKING A TEETERTOTTER OUT OF THE ONE OF THE LARGE POLES FROM MESSY MATERIALS,
AND THEY WERE STANDING IT ON A TREE STUMP AND THEY WERE ALL CLIMBING ON IT. THEM BUILT IT HIGHER AND HIGHER SO IT WAS
WAY OFF THE GROUND. I WAS GETTING A LITTLE SCARED, I HAVE TO ADMIT. BUT I WAS LIKE, NO. YOU HAVE TO HOLD YOURSELF, STAY BACK AND WATCH
IT. THEY WERE GOOD. THEY SOLVED THEIR PROBLEMS. I AM GLAD I DIDN’T STEP IN BECAUSE OTHERWISE
THEY WOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN TO THAT POINT. I THINK THE NATURE CLASSROOM IS REALLY IMPORTANT
AND GIVES AN OUTLET FOR LOTS OF DIFFERENT CHILDREN. IF THEY ARE NOT A CHILD THAT LIKES TO SWING,
MAYBE THEY LIKE TO DIG AND GO TO THE MESSY MATERIALS AREA OR THEY MAY ENJOY THE CREATIVE
PART AND WANT TO GO OVER TO THE ART AREA AND DO SOME DRAWINGS OR SOME PAINTING. BUT IT GIVES A SPOT FOR CHILDREN OF ALL DIFFERENT
INTERESTS AND ABILITIES, A SPOT WHERE THEY CAN GO AND BE COMFORTABLE AND THEY CAN BE
HAPPY. I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT WHEN YOU BEGIN TO
DECIDE AS A COMMITTEE, AS A SCHOOL BOARD, AS A TEACHING STAFF THAT THIS IS SOMETHING
YOU WANT TO DO. IT IS IMPORTANT TO MOVE BUT MOVE SLOWLY. YOU HAVE TO RAISE AWARENESS. WHEN WE STARTED THE NATURE CLASSROOM HERE,
ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS WE DID IS WE DID A BOOK STUDY. WE ALL READ “LOST CHILD IN THE WOODS” BY RICHARD
LOUV. WE HAD A BOOK STUDY EVERY WEEK AND WE TALKED
ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR OWN CHILDREN HERE IN OUR OWN COMMUNITY HERE IN CENTRAL
ILLINOIS. AND THAT STARTED THE WHOLE NATURE CLASSROOM,
THE BOOK STUDY. THAT WAS WITH ALL OF MY TEACHERS. FOR THE PARENTS DURING OUR BACK TO SCHOOL
NIGHT, WE HAD A WHOLE SECTION ON WHY WE WANT TO BUILD A NATURE CLASSROOM. WE SHOWED A VIDEO CALLED “DIRT IS GOOD” FOR
THE PARENTS AND TALKED TO THEM ABOUT WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO LET THEIR CHILDREN GET
DIRTY. SO IT IS IMPORTANT TO DO A LOT OF PARENT EDUCATION. SOME OF THE OTHER STEPS WE TOOK, IT WAS REALLY
IMPORTANT FOR US TO FIND A LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT THAT SHARED OUR CORE VALUES FOR NATURE CLASSROOMS
AND COULD KIND OF ENVISION THE NATURE CLASSROOM ON OUR CAMPUS, AND IT WAS IMPORTANT TO US
THAT HE INTEGRATE THE NATURAL SURROUNDINGS, THAT WE USED ONLY ROCKS AND TREES AND PLANTS
THAT WERE NATIVE TO CENTRAL ILLINOIS. OF COURSE, FUNDRAISING IS IMPORTANT AS WELL. WE DID TWO YEARS OF FUNDRAISING. WE TOOK IT BABY STEPS. WHAT YOU WILL SEE TODAY IS NOT WHAT WE STARTED
WITH. WE STARTED WITH THE TRAIL, BUILDING THE TRAIL,
THE PERGOLA, AND MESSY MATERIALS. THOSE WERE THE FIRST AREAS WE DID. SOME OF THE FEATURES THAT ARE REQUIRED OF
A CERTIFIED NATURE CLASSROOM. SO THAT’S WHERE WE STARTED AND EVERY YEAR,
WE ADDED THINGS. HERE AT UPC DISCOVERY, WE ALSO FORMED A SUBCOMMITTEE
OF OUR SCHOOL BOARD CALLED “NATURE CONNECTIONS.” NATURE CONNECTIONS CONSISTS OF PARENTS IN
THE PROGRAM, PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAM, AND CHURCH MEMBERS. THEY COME TOGETHER AS A COMMITTEE TO MAKE
DECISIONS AND PLAN AND MAINTAIN THE NATURE CLASSROOM. THOSE WERE SOME OF THE STEPS WE TOOK. WE ALSO WANTED TO FIND A STRATEGY FOR OFFERING
AN ENCOURAGING MORE INTERGENERATIONAL ACTIVITIES. SOME OF OUR OLDER CHURCH MEMBERS ARE EXPERTS
WITH NATURE, EXPERT BIRD WATCHERS THAT CAN IDENTIFY BIRD CALLS, EXPERT GARDENERS, MASTER
GARDENERS, AND THEY HAVE WONDERFUL SKILLS TO SHARE WITH OUR YOUNG FAMILIES AND OUR CHILDREN. WE WANTED TO FIND A WAY TO GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY
TO DO THAT, AND THEIR NATURE CLASSROOM WAS A WAY TO DO THAT AS WELL. AT UPC NATURE RANGERS ARE DESIGNED TO BE RESOURCE
PEOPLE FOR THE PRE-SCHOOL, FOR THE REST OF THE CHURCH, TO GET PEOPLE OUT INTO OUR CAMPUS. WE HAVE TEN PLUS ACRES HERE THAT’S JUST FULL
OF INTERESTING TREES AND PLANTS AND THERE IS ANIMALS AND BIRDS. AND OUR JOB IS TO GET PEOPLE OUT TO SEE WHAT
WE HAVE AND HELP THEM ENJOY IT. MANY OF THE FEATURES IN THE NATURE CLASSROOM
WERE DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED BY THE FAMILIES. THE MUD KITCHEN WAS HE ENTIRELY DESIGNED BY
A PARENT. AND THEN SHE ORGANIZED HER OWN CONSTRUCTION
TEAM. SEVERAL OTHER FEATURES OF OUR NATURE CLASSROOM,
THE BRICK PATIOS UNDERNEATH OUR OUTLAST BLOCKS AND OUR NATURE ART STORAGE SHED WERE DESIGNED
BY A DIFFERENT PARENT. AND I LOVED THAT THEY TOOK OWNERSHIP AND CAME
UP WITH THESE IDEAS ON THEIR OWN. WHAT UPC DOES IS TWICE A YEAR, WE HAVE WHAT
IS CALLED NATURE OUTDOOR WORKSHOP. AND IT IS PARENTS OF THE STUDENTS HERE, AND
THEN SOME VOLUNTEERS FROM THE CHURCH HERE AT UPC. WE HAVE ASSIGNED DUTIES FOR ABOUT THREE TO
FOUR HOURS. AGAIN, IT IS IN THE FALL AND THE SPRING, AND
IT IS UPKEEP. IT IS CREATING NEW STATIONS. IT IS EXPANDING CURRENT CREATIVITY STATIONS
AND WORK STATIONS. WORKDAYS ARE A HUGE WAY THAT PRE-SCHOOL FAMILIES
ARE ENGAGED IN THE NATURE CLASSROOM, AND IT IS AWESOME TO SEE ELDERLY PEOPLE, CHURCH MEMBERS,
YOUNG DADS, YOUNG MOMS COMING TOGETHER FOR A SINGLE PURPOSE, AND THAT’S WHAT NATURE CLASSROOM
DOES FOR US HERE. THE NATURE OUTDOOR WORKSHOPS, THEY WORK — IT
IS ASHAME IT IS ONLY TWICE A YEAR BECAUSE MOST OF THE PARENTS THAT PARTICIPATE IN IT,
IT IS ONLY THREE TO FOUR HOURS, AND WE HAVE A LOT OF FUN DOING IT. IT IS A GREAT TIME OF FELLOWSHIPPING, GETTING
TO KNOW THE PARENTS AND WHY WE ALL CHOSE THIS PLACE FOR OUR CHILD’S EARLY EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT. ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I WOULD RECOMMEND
TO ANY DIRECTOR OR PRINCIPAL IS GO VISIT OTHER NATURE CLASSROOMS. GO SEE SOME OTHER NATURE CLASSROOMS IN THE
AREA. GO VISIT THEM. TALK TO OTHER ADMINISTRATORS WHO HAVE WALKED
THE JOURNEY THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO UNDERTAKE. ASK THEM WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES, WHAT STRATEGIES
DID THEY USE. I THINK IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO GET YOUR
PARENTS, YOUR FAMILIES ON BOARD RIGHT AWAY, AND THAT’S THAT PARENT EDUCATION COMPONENT
THAT I SPOKE ABOUT BEFORE. GET THEM ON BOARD. SHOW THEM VIDEOS. SEND THEM BOOKS THEY CAN READ. SEND THEM ARTICLES ABOUT WHY WE ARE CONNECTING
CHILDREN WITH NATURE IS SO IMPORTANT. ANOTHER STRATEGY IS TO GET YOUR TEACHERS ON
BOARD. NOT ALL TEACHERS LOVE MUD. MUD IS MESSY. THERE IS NO GETTING AROUND THAT. GETTING THE TEACHERS ON BOARD WITH THIS, GETTING
THEM TO TAKE OVER OWNERSHIP HOW THINGS ARE DESIGNED, SCHEDULES, WHAT KINDS OF MATERIALS
GO INTO THE AREAS IN THE NATURE CLASSROOM IS VERY IMPORTANT. IF YOU AS THE ADMINISTRATOR MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS
YOU ARE GOING TONIGHT ONE OUT THERE TAKING CARE OF ALL THE MAINTENANCE. YOU HAVE TO INVOLVE YOUR STAFF. THE FIRST YEAR I GUESS, FIRST HALF YEAR DEFINITELY
HE WAS KIND OF SHY ABOUT WHEN IT CAME TO DIRT IN GENERAL. WE ALWAYS NOTICED HE WOULD WALK AROUND THE
PUDDLES WHICH BOTH MY WIFE AND I WERE OUTDOORS PEOPLE. WE WERE KIND OF LIKE, JUMP IN THE PUDDLE. IT IS COOL. WE ARE TOTALLY FINE WITH THAT. HE DOES. THE MUD KITCHEN THEY HAVE ON THE UPC GROUNDS
AND OUTDOOR CLASSROOM HE REALLY STARTED GETTING HANDS DEEP IN DIRT. WHEN WE PLANT FLOWERS, OR WORK IN THE GARDEN,
HE HAS NO PROBLEM NOW GETTING HIS HANDS DOWN THERE AND GRABBING DIRT AND GETTING HIS HANDS
DIRTY. HE LIKES TO GO ON HIKES. HE LIKES TO TAKE FRIENDS ON HIKES. HE IS ALL UP FOR A CHALLENGE, CLIMBING TREES,
BUILDING THINGS. I MEAN WE HAVE DEFINITELY NOTICED THAT. I DO THINK LARGE PART OF IT IS DUE TO WHAT
HE IS DOING AT THE NATURE CLASSROOM HERE. THAT’S THE GREAT THING ABOUT IT, IS THEY ARE
TAKING THESE IDEAS AND CONCEPTS AND WHAT THEY HAVE LEARNED HERE EVEN AT AGES FOUR AND FIVE,
AND WHEN THEY ARE OUTDOORS OR HOME OR IN A PARK OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THEY ARE UTILIZING,
REMEMBERING THEM, AND REFERENCING THINGS THEY HAVE LEARNED AT SUCH AN EARLY AGE. I THINK THAT IS A GREAT BENEFIT, COMING TO
UPC WAS PROBABLY THE BEST DECISION WE MADE AS PARENTS BECAUSE OF THE OUTDOOR NATURE CLASSROOM.

About James Carlton

Read All Posts By James Carlton

2 thoughts on “Discovering Nature Classrooms in Early Childhood (Video #191)

  1. Whether you are an expert in nature classrooms or are just feeling inspired, we would love to hear from you! Please add your thoughts about this video or the topic in the comments! Thank you!

  2. excellent video.I really liked seeing it.
    Keep going please.subbed you.
    I would appreciate it if you sub back 🙏 🙂 ❤&✌

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *