Nature-Based Early Childhood Education
Increasingly, schools across the nation are incorporating nature into their classrooms, following research that tracks the benefits of integrating nature with education. This ongoing research shows that spending time outside supports children’s developmental, cognitive, emotional, physical and social growth in unique ways that a highly structured indoor classroom cannot provide (see Natural Start Alliance’s 2017 national survey results here).
Public, private, Montessori and other schools have created lessons or programs that offer preschoolers and/or kindergarteners the chance to learn outdoors.
When access to outdoor spaces is connected with research-based teaching techniques, the resulting program is referred to as Nature-Based Early Childhood Education: a powerful way to support our youngest learners.
At Merry Lea, this translates into students:
- Practicing observation and writing skills through sit spot journaling
- Developing balance, agility, and gross motor skills while climbing on logs, stumps and trees
- Engineering shelters out of found objects such as mud, sticks, and leaves while discovering the properties of materials and their uses
- Cultivating a sense of wonder and inquiry while watching the changes around them: buds swelling into leaves; mushrooms emerging, fruiting, and decomposing; evidence of animal activity
- …and more!
While we incorporate these concepts into all of our educational experiences, our program repertoire includes two pioneering initiatives: Nature Preschool and Kinderforest.