Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
Discovering Nature on Urban Public School Grounds
Join the conversation! Ask questions, share experiences, and network with others in this week's discussion about outdoor education in public schools.
This past summer, I worked feverishly with educators from all over the country, sharing ideas and best practices for a nature program in a public school. I wanted an unstructured program, school administration wanted structure – we decided to meet in the middle. By offering a loosely structured program, Habitat Discovery, children are given the freedom to play and learn in nature, awaken their curiosity, and develop gross and fine motor skills.
Every Thursday afternoon, I lead a class of Pre-K and Kindergarten students out to 3 acres of lawn that exists on school property. Out in the field, the kids engage with the environment in ways that they aren’t able to on the school’s playground. They develop muscle strength by climbing trees, hanging and swinging from the branches of trees older than their parents, roll down the hill, run, scream, flip, and throw leaves into the air.
We plan the sessions around a theme. This month’s theme is trees. Since it is autumn here in Maryland, we can talk about the leaves, sing songs about trees, and encourage children to act like trees. They collected items from trees such as leaves, pinecones, acorns, and even sticks for painting. We bring together all of the senses and subjects through the art of questioning. What color is this leaf? What does it smell like? How many pine cones are on the tarp? Do pine trees have leaves? Who could have eaten this leaf? are just some questions we may ask. This process of questioning builds observation skills, focus, math skills, and language skills through conversational exchange.
When the energy calms down, we gather together for a sharing session. We harvest the childrens' stories about what they saw and heard, and they relive the excitement all over again as they share with their peers. Finally, a class of approximately 30 students, hearts pounding and bodies tired from free-play in beautiful autumn weather, settle onto a large tarp for a short story.
Interested in knowing more? Chat with Tia in the discussion boards!