Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your child completed a nature preschool now what?

Unfortunately there are no nature-based elementary schools close enough to where I live. Like most people who choose this type of early education for their children, I saw my son off to a traditional elementary school this fall. My biggest concern was how he would transition from spending most of his time outside to an indoor classroom. I felt sad that his learning would be primarily done inside and that he would not have the opportunity to explore the natural world around him. I hear that this is a concern of many who are considering nature preschools. I am happy to say that so far the transition has gone great and  I am an even bigger fan of nature preschool programs.

I observed that my son entered kindergarten as a confident boy. My biggest concern was that unstructured learning was familiar to him, kindergarten is structured. How would he fit in? The daily explorations that he experienced at his nature preschool provided him with valuable skills. He brought these skills to his new learning environment. Though his physical surroundings were much different he was able to fit right in and observe, experiment and learn. Attending a nature preschool sparked a love of learning. This foundation he brought with him on his very first day of school.

I am learning that the one area where my son needs more attention than the other children in his class is in regards to his writing. Due to its unstructured nature, nature preschools do not bring a structured approach to  learning and he was not so interested in perfecting his writing. It is good practice to work with your child on skills that need extra attention at home. For us it was writing, each child is different. You will be able to identify the areas that you need to work on with your child.

Now that we left the comfy and nurturing environment of our nature preschool we are finding ways to enrich his learning through nature and it is helping to strengthen the foundation that was laid during preschool. We are doing this by:
  • Nature-based camp during the summer. We signed our son up for a full day, week long camp. He attended this camp just before school started. Not only did it help introduce him to what it would be like be away from home for a full day, it continued his learning about nature in a fun way. We plan to send him to a nature-based camp every summer.
  • Nature-based classes throughout the year. Local Audubon Societies and town programs offer these types of opportunities. My son and I take one nature class a week and I pepper special programs throughout each month.
  • Outside Exporation. Have your child play outside one hour before or after school. We go out no matter what the weather.
  • Walk to school. Make nature observations along the way. If you do not live within walking distance. Drive to a point where you feel comfortable walking. If the mornings are too hectic, walk after.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering your time in the classroom and make suggestions on how to incorporate nature opportunities.
  • Family Nature Vacations. Incorporate nature in your family vacations.
My child has become a nature ambassador and a confident student. I strongly believe that this foundation was laid by his nature preschool and will continue to guide him through his elementary education.
I will continue to post observations and suggestions along the journey!! For additional information check out the Education section.

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