Thursday, June 27, 2013

2013 Outdoor Kindergarten Report Card - Exceeds Expectations

Back in October of 2012, I wrote a blog about an Outdoor Kindergarten program that was taking place in my daughter’s school.  This program was going to incorporate learning outside in nature two mornings a week, rain or shine!  My own values, beliefs, and experience have shown me that being outdoors and connecting with nature provides children, and adults, with valuable learning opportunities, skill building, and confidence.  Research has indicated that children develop important cognitive, self-discipline, and self-awareness skills when connected with nature. Enhancing a child’s learning experience is always a great thing!

School wrapped up this week and that brought an end to the first Outdoor Kindergarten program at Woodbank Primary School on Vancouver Island.  The kindergarten teacher’s goals for the year were to build an appreciation for nature and provide increased opportunities for children to learn while playing outside.  This year’s program surpassed her goals!

Reaching their potential through exploration

I asked our fabulous teacher if she noticed any differences in the children’s learning behaviours between the outdoor program vs the traditional classroom learning she has taught in the past.  She handed me a page long list of findings.

She saw in the children a joy of being outside.  Their stamina increased dramatically.  At the beginning of the year, some children complained about tired legs during hikes.  These children were leading the pack by the end of the school year.  She witnessed the children’s willingness to take physical risks; jumping over puddles, climb trees, and teaming up to roll large logs down a beach and into the ocean.  Outside the children’s imagination play blossomed.  Using natural material around them, the children built bird nests, created homes for bugs, and roasted marshmallows over imaginary fires.  Searching for bugs with their bug jars lead to willingness to learn about them, ask questions, and understand nature.

Outdoor classroom inspiring creativity

Part of the Outdoor Kindergarten program involved parent participation.  In order for it to succeed two – four parents were needed for each outing, pending the location.  One morning a week was exploring the school forest and one morning was either hiking thru Hemer Park (close to school) or travelling to beaches, farms, fish hatchery, bee farm, or hike a local trail.  I regularly supervised and over the school year, I too noticed a difference in the children.  Their ability to focus improved, confidence grew, and respect not only for nature, but for each other developed.  

Celebrating accomplishments!

Outdoor Kindergarten was a success.  As a parent, all I want for my children are opportunities to enhance their learning.   Spending time outside and exploring nature is just one way to achieve this.

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