Nature Space Development for Early Learning
Our Kindergarten team has developed a daily Outdoor Integrating Learning program in which children engage in child led, play based and educator led activities in our “Nature Corner”. Until recently, this was just an un-mowed corner of the school property in our rural community.
The goal of is to remove restrictions that are placed on the children when they are learning through play in the classroom, as well as to support social, motor and academic goals, all while engaging with the natural environment surrounding our school. We believe that children who are given the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time exploring, investigating and learning about what matters to them in their natural world, will develop into global citizens who see intrinsic value in being guardians of their corners of the planet. Giving children an opportunity to take risks, work cooperatively, and solve problems as part of their education, especially in a place-based setting is the cornerstone of our programming.
To develop our raw natural space in a way that encourages more opportunity to learn about looking after our natural world in a way that makes sense to early learners.
We began our project with the goal of creating a large pollinator garden. We talked about what plants need and decided that water harvesting was going to be the focus for this project. We researched the best ways to collect rainwater and the children designed their own structures. We received funding to complete a four post sloping shed roof with a gutter and rain barrel. After approaching a local business we ended up having the materials donated and volunteers will begin building our structure in June. Until then, the children are assisted in collecting water from a nearby river to water the garden that we have since added to our space.
A parent volunteer tilled a 25’x3′ garden bed and the students worked to mix in topsoil and compost with garden tools purchased through our LSF Project funding. They each made a row marker and planted their own row of a pollinator wildflower mixture. At this time we are relying on river water and rain water, with the goal of building a temporary tarp rainwater harvesting system we came across during our research.
To encourage interest in the plants growing around them we chose and planted 6 shrubs for characteristics that make them exciting to study throughout different seasons. We focused on foliage and flowers for the plants we purchased, and we had blueberry plants donated that we will use to educate on permaculture.
In order to study local birds we have placed a bird-feeder in our space as well as ordered a field-guide so students can identify species in real time during their “nature time”.
We also purchased each child a small stitched notebook to use as a nature journal. Each day they write to a prompt that encourages thought and reflection of the time they spend learning in their natural environment.
Reflection & Celebration
We developed our Outdoor Integrated Learning Time (Nature Time to the students) slowly over the last 8 years. David Suzuki’s 30 minutes a day for the month of May Nature Challenge was our jumping off point. We saw the amazing learning the children were doing during this time and slowly it started to trickle into weekly journeys out into the surroundings we are so lucky to have around our school. When we were returning to school after Covid lockdowns, the messaging from the school board was that students could spend as much time outside as they could for social distancing and sanitizing reasons. We took this green light and started our daily 40 minute period of Nature Time. Every day we are so inspired by what the children create, how they interact with their environment and how they engage with each other. Having this opportunity to receive funding to develop our space even further has been wonderful. I look forward to seeing our project through by the end of the school year with our rain harvesting roof fully functioning. We celebrate in kindergarten all of the time, and every day in our space is a joy. We will have a picnic over the summer so that the students can see how their wildflowers are doing and can show their parents the environment they worked so hard in all year as a final celebration.