Antioch University New England Developing Nature Preschool Education Major

Getting children back in touch with nature seems to be what the Blue Heron School is all about. The facility caters to those in preschool, and it is based in Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. The facility is a place where children get to simply enjoy being in the great outdoors; whether it is exploring with only their curious minds in tow or whether it is reading under a comfortable tree, and it is a place where children have the opportunity to experience the freedom and beauty that comes from being out in nature. The director, as well as teacher at Blue Heron, Laura Mammarelli, says that the children enjoy the time that they spend outside, and it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, as long as they are properly dressed for it, it’s all just a part of the experience. This is one place where rain doesn’t mean “rush inside”; it is simply another element the children have to explore.

Lessons In The Great Outdoors

Any lesson that the children have takes place in Mother Nature’s classroom, and as Mammarelli puts it, “if there’s a plan with a naturalist to go out and talk about rocks, we go. We go on a little hike out, and we go to where the rocks are”. Institutions such as these are known as “all-weather” facilities; nothing gets in the way of learning. The concept of a “nature school” started in Scandinavia around the 1960′s, and since then it has been gaining ground all over the world. The basic idea is to get children outside and allow them to learn and explore within this environment. Children learn everything from the natural sciences to the alphabet in this wide open classroom, and Mammarelli says that the children’s natural curiosity is encouraged. “If children are curious and want to turn over a log – I mean, that’s kind of a typical thing to happen, but it’s really exciting when you’re 3. We lift up the log, and we look at what’s underneath it, and we talk about carefully putting the log back. They collect worms. They will touch everything. Sometimes they catch things in plastic containers and we study it.”

Child-Oriented Learning

Children are encouraged to take the lead within this “classroom” and this is why most activities are started by the little ones. The teachers are there to oversee their learning and ensure that they are safe, which allows the children a lot more freedom to explore their natural fascination with the world around them.

Antioch University To Follow Suit

Antioch University New England is so impressed by the offerings of these natural schools that the institution is going to be incorporating nature preschool into their curriculum as a major. One of the senior faculty members within the institution, David Sobel, has already begin presenting workshops on the subject, and according to him; “It was becoming so evident that (these nature schools) were effective in terms of learning and being healthier and being better places for motor development that some people in the United States started to take note”. The results obtained from studies concerning children attending these facilities have been very positive, and this new initiative might just change the way preschool is viewed by parents, as well as the children that attend them.