We believe that young children have an innate desire to learn and that is best achieved through unstructured child-driven free play.
Nature provides an expansive outdoor classroom that inspires and excites kids to move, create, explore, discover, question, and engage with each other.
Social and emotional health is the foundation for later learning and it is best developed in an environment where children are respected, encouraged to identify and express their feelings, work together, are supported in stating their wants, needs, and resolving conflict, and given ample space to create and question.
Fresh air, open spaces, the quiet and calm pace, and a landscape of trees, plants, and living creatures offers a freedom and wonder that is unmatched, especially in the heart of a city. Exploring outside is safe and builds confidence, independence, and competence.
Children who are given regular opportunities to be outdoors develop a love, respect, and appreciation for nature that they carry with them as they grow. Nature's brilliance comes from it's simplicity and accessibility - clouds in the sky, autumn leaves, and blankets of snow - as well as from it's magical intricacy, depth, and patterns. Children encouraged to take the time to be still and observe in a natural environment are developing the skills necessary to create mindfulness and balance in our fast-pace, technologically driven world.
Children should be allowed to get messy and dirty, immersing themselves in tactile play and sensory exploration outside.
Children are all unique and learn and express themselves in different ways and should be provided with multiple and varied opportunities to explore and experiment. In the spirit of Reggio Emilia, children can be provided with open ended and natural materials to create and play with, and can be trusted to use simple tools with respect and guidance. Nature play brings forth inquiry, debate, and challenge and the group - children and adults - are there to support and guide each other as they learn.
The scientific findings on the emotional, physical, social and developmental benefits of spending time in nature are vast and document stress relief, self regulation, improved moods, bodily awareness, sensory integration, improved inter-personal skills, increased attention span, creativity and confidence.
Nature based play and outside exploration provides ample opportunities for children to develop emergent skills:
Climbing a tree or balancing on a log or rock, creating awareness, physical challenge, and agility (as every tree, log and rock in nature is unique) is PHYS ED.
Working and playing together in a group, taking care of each other outside, building respect, awareness, and kindness towards ourselves and our environment is SOCIAL STUDIES.
Counting bucketfuls of rocks, collecting and sorting acorns from different oak trees, and measuring rope to stretch from one tree to another is MATH.
Hoisting sticks in the air, wearing flower and leaf crowns, dressing up with fabric scraps, turning trees into castles and logs into subway trains, and mixing up mud and grass soup to serve for dinner is DRAMATIC PLAY.
Examining and identifying trees through collecting fruits, fallen leaves, and bark, using compasses, flashlights, and binoculars, chasing shadows, seeing what floats or sinks in a puddle, and digging up and holding wriggling, slimy worms is SCIENCE.
Stories under the trees, drawing and writing in our nature journals, and brainstorming descriptive words to describe a a ooey, gooey, slimy, squishy, wet, cold, smooth, brown, heavy, handful of mud is emergent LITERACY.
Mixing and grinding natural paints from flowers and plants, twisting and tying sticks together to make a fairy house, and sticking leaves, twigs, and acorns into molded clay sculptures is ART.
Drumming rocks and sticks on a fallen logs, creating silly songs while we hike, and listening, repeating and identifying birds by their song is MUSIC.