Nature Preschool Allows Learning to Happen Naturally
Playing with sticks, counting acorns, and tromping through mud may sound like child’s play. But it’s part of the core curriculum at Cape Cod’s first Nature Preschool at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary.
The preschool, awarded its state license last fall, has drawn strong community support as more people reconnect with nature and recognize the importance of spending time outdoors.
An Integrated Approach to Learning
Preschool Director Diana Stinson says for children ages 3-5, outdoor learning happens in an integrated way and not subject-by-subject, as with traditional classroom education. Kids learn letters by forming them with sticks and arithmetic by counting acorns.
"While children are on the trail, we are singing rhyming songs, we are hunting for and counting squirrel dreys (nests), and we are practicing empathy," Diana says.
Long Pasture Nature Preschool is committed to spending the majority of the day outdoors, regardless of weather. If there’s a school uniform, it’s yellow rain gear or "puddle pants!"
Learning through Experience
Diana says the outdoors provides hand-on experiences that serve as a foundation for learning. "Nature Preschoolers can easily describe the lifecycle of a frog because they have scooped them from a pool. They often will transfer that insight to problem solve other situations—the life cycle of a mammal, or an insect."
Another part of the curriculum includes practicing smart risk-taking, such as learning to balance on logs and mixing mud.
As they develop confidence and competence outdoors, children come to see the natural world as a natural part of their world. "One preschooler once asked me," Diana recalls, "why we even have an indoor building at Long Pasture when all the fun stuff is outside!"