nature-based preschools

Caring and community: Bringing nature to the center in Austin preschools

Could you describe a typical day at your school?

Wendy: We start each day with morning circle, singing songs and reading. We do our math by counting chicken eggs and then the kids often play in the “mud kitchen.” They have tea parties and make cakes and they just love to jump in the puddles and make mud angels. They’re dirty and happy. We might then go into the garden and sing into watering cans to explore changes in our voices, then water plants, and turn the compost. Then we go to our meadow and forest to play pretend games and climb trees—and look for deer. After lunch, we have art, music, and a yoga game that’s like Simon Says, where I call out a pose and students imitate it.

Nicole: Each day is so different, but for example: We might start out inside with an hour of free play with play-dough or rocks and minerals or dress-up clothes. Recently some kids wanted to play ninjas, so we pulled materials out of the closet, and after about 30 minutes they had created costumes with gloves and shoes made of masking tape and ribbon. They got so involved in the creation of the costumes, they forgot about the game! We always go for a hike to a few usual spots by a creek to look at turtles and birds. The kids climb on rocks and jump in the water, balancing and learning to use their whole bodies. They make pretend salads with leaves and berries. Afterward, we’ll have a resting time when they can draw, write, or read—but a lot of them sleep after all that activity.

Britt: We start our day with an hour of social conflict time in our play yard. We purposefully design our environment with too few items: trucks, bamboo shafts, trees to climb. This facilitates cooperation and the right kind of social conflict—in a large school group representing multiple ages and experience levels. All the kids have a short, 15-minute community time inside with their teacher. We meet live animal visitors, including snakes, lizards, and rabbits that the kids get to touch and hold. This is also our sensory exploration time, with multiple bins set up with things like bird seed, sand, and bones. Every group hikes every single day, even in tricky weather. Our three-year-olds might just take a walk around the school at first, but by the end of the year they go as far as the limestone caves on our preserve.

 

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