Why is an ability to build a personal experience with nature in childhood so important? You must crawl before you can walk and skipping processes leads to an incomplete puzzle. Having time to observe, interact and imagine in natural surroundings supports resiliency, coping skills, a buffer to handle adversity, comforts someone in times of stress, improves focus and concentration and encourages a child to be positive and eager in new learning experiences. These are just a few attributes of benefits to daily interaction with the natural outdoor environment. We believe it is required for the best optimal growth and development of every child to ensure they are provided ample time and large space to roam and explore daily with the outside natural world.
The elements is calming, healing and creates a positive effect on learning.
More than ever, are the many trains of thought when it comes to the educating, disciplining, and basic raising of children. We would like to share a few observations of how we see ourselves working daily with the children and why we believe this is essential and provides fundamental experience for the children not only now but how it will serve them long after they have left our care.
Society in general is so busy, with the competitive/fast-paced world, that we fail to see the natural beauty in the everyday all around us. To recognize that nature’s splendor and mystery lie in the very time it takes to be created is parallel to another truth. Children do not come ready to handle all skills out of the gate, these skills take time, practice, repetition, and desire through natural curiosity. These things are commonly overshadowed and pushed aside due to overbooked family or child themed activities that do not support opportunities for a child to connect with nature and allow practice of autonomous skills.
Children who are involved in natural experiences are more apt to shed away the overstimulating exposure to technology and noise that can overwhelm them. This allows children to slow down to focus on skill building. Successful completed development of autonomy skills are not fully ascertained through each individual until later in their lives. It is an evolving process through toddler, preschool, and middle adolescent years.
For example, if a child does not have daily practice in writing, basic marks, slashes and scribbles, how can they be expected to not only write well but develop their full potential when they do not successfully practice and hone that skill? How does an Olympian jump in a pool and win a race without years of practice and hard effort? You can and should apply this strategy to child building 101.
Children must be allowed time for healthy struggles while learning every skill and not have us hurry them through the process because we have somewhere to be or because we just can’t bear to hear them whine or cry out in frustration. A mother in the wild is tenacious for her child to thrive and survive. We should not be any less fierce in our love and determination for whatever future goals they wish to set out and achieve.
At Grover Place we strive to provide a facility and staff that not only care for your child but provide them with ample opportunities to have healthy struggles that increase their ability to handle adversity and develop beneficial individual coping skills. This promotes the development of self-confidence while in the same breath grasping an understanding of humility and its power as a leadership quality. The end game leaves them prepared to be leaders for the larger global community that will need their skills in the years ahead.
Polliwog & Tadpole Program
Different from our approach in years past, where classes were built around ages of groups, our center now utilizes a mixed age classroom approach. This reduces the number of children we can enroll into the program as we adhere to the staff/child ratios to our classrooms. However, we find the classroom is balanced in a way that was not possible leaving children to just their age group.
In mixed aged group settings, children are more likely to be seen as individuals, less likely to be rushed to conform into rigid whole group routines in large group settings, less likely to be pressured at the same place on various milestone developments. *
By challenging our younger children through peer building activities, observing the modeling and mentoring of slightly older children, there is less fear of the unknown, there is self-confidence and more acceptance of everyone involved.
The older children develop nurturing, cooperative behaviors, polish social skills that allow them greater confidence when interacting with their own peer group as well as foster beginning leadership and team player skills necessary in life from the young years of a child’s classroom to the older years of an adult boardroom.*
Although as a child care center facility and setting, we strive to make each classroom feel like a home away from home. There are two staff, one senior staff and one aide, in the classroom to nurture and motivate the children. Children are given opportunities to safely explore their world through a variety of manipulatives and developmentally appropriate toys. The Polliwogs & Tadpoles have their own playground that allows them to run, climb, and slide in a safe setting.
Children participate in daily indoor and outdoor activities, as well as small and large group activities. A large playground offers the children the freedom to safely explore the outdoor world and to allow moments of reflection, whether gazing at the seasonal changes occurring or observing a moment in the natural world that is calming and soothing. The daily schedule is flexible and allows for those unexpected teachable moments.
Self-help skills such as toilet training, dressing, and personal hygiene are modeled and encouraged. Currently, the center staff use the ASQ-3 Ages & Stages Questionnaires for the state required assessment after 90 days of continued enrollment. We utilize The Creative Curriculum when looking at each child as an individual for daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, development milestones and relay this information yearly. Families are actively involved in the use of this evaluation tool by completing the family portion and attending parent-teacher conferences.
Almost anything and everything you could do indoors can be done outdoors. If our class in the morning takes an unplanned trip outdoors to observe a natural occurrence or it is just too delightful a day to be spent indoors, then out we go. If we were painting then we can do that outside, if we were singing, building, reading, pretending, all of this and more we just take outside.
* Excerpts taken from The Care Courses School, Inc. training manual Mixed-Age Groups in Early Childhood Programs
The center offers before- and after-school care for school age children who attend St. Leonard Elementary School or Mutual Elementary School. Care is provided on days that school is not in session and a fun-filled summer program is offered. Homework help is offered when possible, however, if children have been engaged in a structured setting ALL day then our first priority is for their soul to run and vent some of the stressors of constant focus and the whole group can create.
The classroom is arranged into learning centers where the school-age children can freely play. Children can choose from a variety of activities indoors and engage in imaginative play on the castle, fort, and ship located on the outdoor playground. Just as with our younger group the rule of “get outdoors if it is beautiful” applies even more to this age group! Currently underway is the addition of a Nature Play Space. This area will be for small group activities and utilized as a field trip into the natural world adjacent to the playground. This area is where the center compost and gardening occur, where children can assist in the constructing of a natural “wattle fence”, they can read in a hammock, bird watch, and simply disengage with the overwrought techno society.
Nabhan and Trimble, The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places, makes a strong case that direct contact with nature is a basic human need, not a luxury children can afford to go without. “Children need time to wander, to be outside, to nibble on icicles, and watch ants, to build with dirt and sticks in a hollow of earth, to lie back and contemplate the clouds and chickadees. These simple acts forge the connections that define a land of one’s own – home and refuge for both girls and boys… They form the secure foundation to which we return again and again in our struggle to be strong and connected, to be complete.*
* Excerpt taken from The Care Courses School, Inc. training manual Witnesses to violence: Helping children cope in a violent world.