Director’s Corner – Supporting Staff as They Enhance Nature-Based Learning Opportunities
If you don’t currently work in a nature-based preschool or forest kindergarten, extended periods of nature-based learning may not be built into your program’s routine. There are a few ways that programs can incorporate nature-based learning experiences:
- Build them into the existing outdoor playtime
- Increase the amount of time spent outdoors
- Provide different materials that promote nature exploration
- Schedule regular community field trips or nature walks
- Increase the number of natural items and learning experiences that are present inside
It is quite possible for leaders to unilaterally make changes to class schedules and purchase additional materials, but to ensure buy-in, it is better to involve staff members in the planning process. If boosting nature-based learning is a goal for your program, here are some things you can do:
- Start the conversation: About a week before your next staff meeting, share an article with your staff that introduces nature-based learning and its benefits. Several appropriate articles are available in this newsletter and you could find others online. Ask participants to review the information in preparation for a conversation that you will be having during the next staff meeting.
- Brainstorming: During the staff meeting, ask for feedback on the contents of the article. Review your program’s philosophy or mission statement. Ask staff to identify how the philosophy and nature-based learning align. If it is not clear, consider making revisions. Also, ask team members to come up with a list of opportunities and challenges that they will face as your program moves forward with enhancing children’s experiences in nature. What materials might they need? What changes to the daily routine are necessary and realistic? It may even be beneficial to have teachers reflect on any aversion they have toward spending time in nature. Finally, ask for volunteers to sit on a committee that will focus on creating policies and practices that will be used moving forward.
- Create an action plan: As conversations continue, you and your committee will have to answer the what, when, where, why, and who of this endeavor. What are the most important tasks that must be accomplished? What materials are needed and what is the budget and plan for purchasing them? What changes need to be made to playground schedules? What nature-related resources and locations exist in your community? Will the program adopt a nature-based curriculum or will teachers come up with ideas on their own? Are there field trip policies and procedures that need to be created or updated? Set the committee to work answering these questions and others that arise during your conversations. Create priorities, timelines, and due dates.
- Engage families: One of the action items should include how you will communicate this enhancement to families. Be sure to share resources that support your decision to increase nature-based learning opportunities. Talk about the benefits and provide activity ideas that families can try at home. Additionally, efforts should be made to engage families in your nature-based learning experiences, either as field trip chaperones or volunteers. Perhaps family members work in nature-related fields. These individuals can be invited to share their knowledge with staff and children.
- Involve the children: Sometimes, teachers will be able to identify children’s interest in nature simply by observing their play. It could also prove helpful to have conversations with children during meals or group meetings to find out what children are interested in learning about.
- Continue to learn: Share books and resources with your team so that they can continue to learn about activity ideas and best practices for nature-based learning. Seek out professional development opportunities related to nature exploration. Work with individuals and teaching teams to implement enhanced learning experiences.
By enrolling your staff in the planning of enhanced nature-based learning experiences, you will be creating enthusiasm and accountability. This practice is essential to the success of the project.
For the main article Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE
For the article Benefits of Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE
For the article Materials for Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE
For the article Nature-Based Learning Tips, CLICK HERE