How are we different but the same as preschool programs you’ve come to know?
Each morning, we greet our students at the entrance to our forest or field classrooms where parents and caregivers are required to sign them in. Students enter the class to play in “centers” like the mud (snow, sand, leaf) kitchen, build forts, climb trees, paint logs etc.
Our circle time is brief and involves singing our greeting, talking about the weather, the calendar and introducing letter and number recognition in a tangible way for students. We make our letters with the sticks and rocks in the forest. Weather is not an abstract concept taught by looking out the window, we are in it.
One key difference in our morning routine: What we see in the forest? What are we interested in doing, building, creating? Students will have a voice in the shape of their day and the type of activities they will do during play time.
In an outdoor school, safety and risk management are key concepts our students actively participate in. We will review the spaces we’ve created (fort area, kitchen, garden etc.) and take note of the flags and pylons used to delineate our space. We will also use our 5 senses to connect with the living things around us and recognize the way the forest is an ever evolving eco-system that we must respect.
Student will have (in no particular order) play time, literacy time, snack time and craft or activity time. Typical of a regular preschool, but in our outdoor classroom. During this time, the teachers will use their background as teachers to seek out opportunities to work with the students and really build on those teachable moments. Your child may not bring a craft home every day (a 3D pinecone structure can be difficult to put in your backpack) but parents are always invited to visit our day’s work at pick up time.
At the end of our classroom day, we will join together again in our circle to share the things we’ve learned and to connect with one another. This will be a centering and calming time for students where we may practice meditation, yoga or other relaxing activities.