Preschool in a Pandemic

I love my job. It’s true; I love watching my students see bald eagles fly overhead, listen to the pileated woodpecker in the class, learn about the moose from the nearby calls. There is something magical about working outside with children in a shared space with nature.

This year, this crazy never-ending pandemic year, I am particularly grateful for my job being outdoors.

For a brief moment each day, I get to experience the patterns of nature through the eyes of a child and I’ll admit that in that moment I forget. I forget about the numerous protocols that all child care settings and education settings are implementing this year in an effort to remain open and safe for the children we serve.

Then, in an instant, I’m reminded.

A student reaches for a hug, a toy is kissed or a small cough escapes and suddenly the weight of the pandemic is back. Each action and reaction is questioned and reviewed. We gently extricate ourselves from the hug, we patiently gather up the toy to quarantine and the coughing child is pulled aside (usually crying) from the group. In a typical day of teaching, we teach for 2 hours. We clean for 2. We examine our decisions for 24. Should we isolate that child, can we comfort that child,, are those students too close, did we wipe down that surface, who touched that toy, who sneezed, who coughed?

Small business’ are stressed. We are trying to balance the needs of our customers with the demands of the pandemic. We pay our staff when we can, refund our parents if we’re able and buy bleach by the gallon. The families in our program are honest about their children’s health and respectful of our policies. We are so grateful to our nature school families.

But I won’t lie.

Running a preschool in a pandemic is exhausting.

Let’s do the math…

We’ve officially been up and running since September 11th.   So far we’ve only had 4 partial indoor days.  These days were due to the nasty combination of rain and cold that hit us so hard in September.   Even though winter arrived Oct. 31st, with our forest classroom being down in the river valley we have been able to stay outside every day.  We are certain that the temperature is a couple of degrees warmer down in the forest class where we are protected from the wind.

So let’s do the math:
The average child spends hours/ week outdoors  playing.  Our students spend 6 hours/ week learning outdoors. We can assume that they also spend the additional 4 hours/ week outdoors; but just to err on the safe side we will give them an additional 2 hours/ week non-school time spent outside playing.  That’s a total of 8 hours/ week that our students spend connecting with nature instead of screens.  That’s TWICE as much as the average child.

Children + Time spent in nature = Happier, healthier children.

The math speaks for itself.

Registration!

We are so excited from all the positive community feedback and excitement that is building for our program.  We are now up to 12 registrations for all 3 sessions!!!   Our intention is to accept 3 more registrations  for all three sessions and cap our class size at 15.  In January, we are going to open up a few more spots for those that have just turned 4.

So stay tuned…we will keep you updated on our plans. Make sure you are on our email list by clicking here . We are playing with the idea of offering some pop-up classes in the spring for our little 3 years old (or newly 4 year olds). It will be an opportunity to try out the program before signing on for 2018 , so let us know if you are interested via an email.

Lori

“No child has ever been or ever will be passionate about a worksheet”.
– Evergreen Schools

 

It’s Really Going to Happen!

When Nicole and I first decided to create St. Albert Nature School, we were two former teachers with a vision and a drive. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Navigating site selection and approvals, getting lost in government paperwork and explaining to everyone why this program is SO important was at times exhausting.  Yet, here we are!  In a few short weeks, our preschool program will be kicking off with a parent information session (January 28) and registration (January 30).  It is really going to happen!

We hope that the community of St. Albert comes out to hear us share our vision and to catch the movement. There is space for 20, 4 year olds in our class. The paperwork is falling into place, our outdoor classroom is starting to take shape and Nicole and I are anxious to start teaching again in a program we are so passionate about.  Deep breath in… let’s do this!
-Lori

We Need Your Help!

Last Spring I gave up my teaching contract with the schools, so that Nicole and I could build St. Albert Nature School. We BELIEVE in this style of learning for your child. We know that you do too.

Currently, we are working with the City of St. Albert and the Province of Alberta to get development permits and licensing in place.  As a part of this process, we need to show that there is support and need for this type of school in the community of St. Albert.

Please take a few minutes to compose an email showing your support for an experiential and nature based approach to education for your child. We, at St. Albert Nature School ,will use it as evidence in our application forms that our community is missing this type of experience and there is a strong desire and support base for our children to have access to it.

Together, we can change our approach to how children learn their ABCs.  Not all classrooms have 4 walls…

Please send all emails to stalbertnatureschool@gmail.com

Thank you!
-Lori