As an educator new to understanding what it truly means to be Nature Inspired, I was drawn to the Joy of Childhood Conference Experience hosted by Discovery Child Care Centre. I was particularly curious about how to implement these skills with toddler and preschool children, understand ways to use loose parts in my program, how to transform a concrete playground, and nature inspired pedagogical documentation practices. After the engaging and collaborative full day learning experience; I left with so many new ideas, resources, and connections for my program. I had new tools to bring into my program tomorrow to operate a nature-based program for children.
The full day experience was hosted at their magnificent 1.5 acre green space that includes forested areas, large open green space, lush gardens harvested by children, and a mud kitchen. All beautifully designed to inspire educators and children to fall in love with nature. We were offered a chance to interact in a licensed child care space that offers children the chance to feel belonging, engagement, well-being, and expression in a superior outdoor environment.
We were provided time to engage with and network with other educators curious about nature-based learning followed by a key note hosted by the centre’s director Karen Eilersen, where we learned about her path to ensure children and educators, “love the world before we can save it.” It was clear to me that this is a way of being and we got to understand what goes into operating a nature based philosophy in the early years.
During lunch, we were able to network with some of their onsite experts to discuss the ways in which this philosophy has transformed their way of being with children. We were able to understand some logistics such as ratios, health and safety, and operations during all different seasons. It was amazing to hear how the educators believe, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!” And how they operate their programs year round.
The afternoon we had the choice to learn about some specific experiences and materials that can be brought into any outdoor space to support children’s natural connections and curiosity. We broke off into small groups and we learned about:
Nature art, weaving, mud kitchens, messy materials, and Hapa Zome (an amazing Japanese Art form).
Our small group Nature Based experts (Discovery Staff) lead us through a group collaborative inquiry where we discussed:
· The benefits for children and educators and connections to How Does Learning Happen?
· How to create spaces for this in their environments (ranging from concrete playgrounds to grassy areas).
· strategies for implementation with infants to school agers.
· Protocols for pedagogical documentation.
The spaces were beautifully designed for engagement and we were offered a chance to understand ways to create these experiences while considering budget, time, and safety.
With all this new found knowledge and understanding, we were able to come back together as a large group and connect to our large learning community of 100 inspiring educators from all over Ontario. We ended the day with a gratitude circle and a new found perspective to bring into our classrooms to offer our children. The connections I was able to make with other educators looking to provide nature based learning for children, the new tools for nature based provocations, and the foundation of this philosophy has left my teaching dispositions forever changed. This professional learning opportunity was so impactful for me and gave me the tools to be an advocate for the power of nature based learning for children.