What comes to mind when I remember back to my kindergarten days is little chairs, little sinks and running around with all my little friends. Now imagine what would happen if we got rid of the chairs and sinks, got rid of the classroom altogether, and put kids outside for the whole day. In today’s world, this is actually happening. It’s called the nature kindergarten and it’s fully outside, all day. Let’s have a look at how it works and why it is beneficial.
The concept of the outdoor kindergarten is not new, but is gaining more interest. In Denmark there are currently over 500 “forest pre-schools” where activities include feeding the chickens, playing outside in the snow, and making mazes for their “pet” cockroaches. This concept is starting to grow here as well. A school in Victoria, BC offers nature preschool. Academics are also pushing for more nature time as a learning environment for kids. But why? What are the benefits of spending the school day outside in nature kindergarten?
- A non-structured learning environment: Learning through experiences is sometimes what sticks with you the most. A cloudy morning turns into a rainy afternoon and puddles the next day. This is a natural lesson plan to look at weather patterns.
- Development of fundamental movement skills: Being able to confidently hop, throw, and, yes, log-roll are some of the few skills needed for kids to become physically literate. The outdoors offers a great environment with its variety of terrain and obstacles. For example, walking along a path to examine flowers may require students to hop over a downed tree (or roll underneath if they are too little) to keep going.
- Connecting with nature: Being in nature is good for the body and mind. The outdoor learning environment offers these benefits, doesn’t have the structure of traditional school (i.e., you must sit in this chair) and is always evolving (i.e., changes in weather and seasons).
- Risky active play: Research suggests that kids need more unstructured outdoor play, which naturally comes with some element of risk. The outdoors are a rich environment that helps children learn their limits while getting some exciting and thrilling play.
Would you sign your kids up for the nature kindergarten? We’d like to hear why or why not. Let us know in the comments below.
David Suzuki Foundation: Learning in nature is good for teachers and students
Ever Green: Teachers’ Corner