What are the benefits of a nature based education?
- Adult-facilitated, open-ended explorations in nature, allowing for the time and opportunity for children to create discovery-based play allows children to strengthen their executive planning skills in thinking of ideas, planning for those ideas and developing the resources needed to complete their ideas.
- Children with their wonderfully open minds learn how to interact with the natural world and all its diverse elements. A single pinecone can create a myriad of questions and explorations: Where did it come from? What is a pinecone for? Who would eat it or use it? Why is it designed the way it is? Do people ever eat it? How do other trees seed themselves if they don't have pinecones? Were there pinecones when the dinosaurs were here? These child-created questions lead to other topics in our world fascinating the children who are asking about them.
- When children are able to be curious, follow their interests, develop their passions and become excited about learning, they are examples of the best practices of developmentally appropriate early childhood education.
- Children experience open-ended outdoor experiences not necessarily offered to them in other parts of their lives. 4-5 year olds attending a nature preschool will probably get more direct contact with the outdoors than they will have in the rest of their formal schooling. Some days they might discover a new cache of pinecones dropped recently by an evergreen or watch the Canadian Geese migrating. Some days they might discover animal tracks in the dirt or snow or build a kitchen garden. Some days they might play in the sunshine of the open meadow or curate their science room collection.
- Nature preschools also feed the heart as well as the brain; children learn academic and social emotional skills. Resilience, independence, creativity are learned along with math, science, art and literacy.
- “If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the motions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.” The Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson
- Early education in nature has been shown to have a lasting positive impact on children's attitudes about our natural world. The early childhood experiences are a crucial time for the formation of adult values and concepts.
- Cooperative nature preschools generate strong parental involvement both in the child’s education and care as well as for the environmental community the family participates in. Cooperative nature preschools strengthen families and create community.
- Nature preschools offer the idea that we are a part of a larger community of humans, birds, plants, animals and soil. Children learn to understand and respect their place alongside the other living things in our world. When you start scaffolding the learning of these concepts, you can apply them to other areas of the children’s lives including their social interactions and place within their own home communities.