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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pursuit of Happiness

Hooray for puddles!
Earlier in the month, with the expanse of Lake Champlain and the blue, green rise of Adirondack Mountains as a backdrop, I sat among educators at the In Bloom Conference: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education. We joined together as a community passionate about young children learning and playing outside in preschool and kindergarten settings. 

It was inspiring and validating to gather with others who collectively feel that playing and learning outside is not only good for young children but vitally important, especially as the average amount of time children in the US spend outdoors engaging in unstructured play is shrinking to a shocking level. 

Cooking in the Mud Kitchen!
Although outdoor styled preschools and kindergartens in Europe (often called Waldkindergartens) have been thriving and receiving government support since the 90’s, the concept is just now taking root in a broader fashion here in the US. Research in Europe illustrates the developmental, health, and academic benefits of outdoor play and learning in the early years. But to a child, learning and playing outdoors is just plain old fun!

During the keynote address at the In Bloom Conference, Antioch professor David Sobel asked a poignant question; What happened to the joy of learning in school? He said he’d like to see US schools incorporate the following into their mission: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I see children thriving outside - joyful and curious about the wonders in nature and using nature as a source of rich, imaginary play. Vermont is in bloom and so too is our Waldkindergarten styled Forest Preschool program at the North Branch Nature Center. Please enjoy taking a look at some of the many wondrous, curious, joyful moments at Forest Preschool this May. 

Registration for the fall session of Forest Preschool is now open. Give the gift of nature and spread the word!

Weaving on the loom at Deer Camp.

Investigating slugs and snails.

Chalk painting in the rain.

Oh yeah, mud!

Making ink by crushing grass and clay brick.


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