Published on April 15, 2020

Update from Ipswich River Nature Preschool

By Karen First
Ipswich River Nature Preschool Director

Cammy with a salamander at Ipswich River preschool

The Ipswich River Nature Preschool team is sensitive to the disruption in the lives of families and young children following school closures and changes in routine due to the call for social distancing during the spread of COVID-19. Children's rhythms are off, and they are struggling to understand why we are not together.

Our early childhood nature-based educators are focusing on the power of connecting through familiar routines and the learning and comfort that can be found outdoors. On a closed community Facebook page, teachers are sharing updates with the school community on the Blanding's Turtles fostered by one of our classes, nature treasures found outdoors, favorite songs, mindfulness exercises, and science and art projects.

Each week, teachers run 20-minute morning meetings for each preschool class via ZOOM. They sing familiar songs, read stories, and include a time to "un-mute" to let each child share thoughts, a drawing, or a stuffed animal with their friends. The whole school community is offered a nature-based learning prompt by email for the week.

This provides a framework to spark curiosity and gets children and their families outdoors, while allowing for flexibility and creativity. It includes suggestions for social-emotional growth as well as math, science, and literacy extensions.

Example: Adopt a Pet Tree

  • Find a tree on your street, in your backyard, or in your neighborhood to get to know
  • Observe and draw the whole tree or a leaf, branch, seed, or flower
  • Create a bark rubbing and describe the bark
  • Hug the tree and tell us how it makes you feel
  • Count something on the tree—leaves, acorns, insects
  • Look for shapes or angles in the tree

The documentation of these experiences through photos, children's quotes, and drawings are then collated into an online gallery that's shared with the families.

In normal times, preschool provides a safe and accepting environment for young children to get to know themselves better as they move beyond who they are as individuals and establish bonds of friendship with each other and open up to the wonders of the world around them.

Although our lives have changed in fast and dramatic ways that keep us apart, we are together in spirit and growing as a community in so many unexpected ways!