Learning Alongside the Preschool Children and Educators. What am I thinking about now?

I have been privileged enough to spend the week of November 30-December 4, 2020 in the preschool program. I spent the days working, learning, and noticing alongside Angie, Lisa, and Sam. 

I noticed how the educators have a passion for connecting children with their space. We had conversations about creating engaging, magical moments for all of the children while they are here. When I sat with the children the values of wonder and awe were evident when I heard children using language such as: I wonder, and I noticed… It became glaringly evident to me how passionate the educators are about connecting the children with place and I wanted to be a part of that adventure. 

We talk a lot about ecological identity in our program statement and way of being here at Discovery and the more time I spent interacting with the children and educators, the more I noticed this being evident in the way of being in this classroom. The children have a genuine wonder and curiosity about the world around them. Our beautiful physical space allows them to follow these natural curiosities; this coupled with the profound offerings from the educators; I felt like we were all experiencing wonder, awe, and curiosity each day. 

After noticing and listening to what the children were interested in, I felt compelled to contribute and be a part of the children’s learning experiences. I curated a box of intentionally chosen materials such as real eggs from a variety of birds, real feathers, a variety of books and resource guides as well as field guides, and magnifying glasses. These real eggs were very delicate. Many may believe that it would be an issue bringing such a resource into a classroom with twenty-one children may end up in a disaster; but we believe children are competent and capable. We believe children can and will understand the value of materials. I also believe that when we hold a strong image of children, we must also provide them with important, beautiful things. 

We all shared in the intense excitement and joy for what we were about to offer the children. We connected back to the previous experiences and exposures the children have had while at Discovery and shared how we wanted to enrich this with new materials. I was filled with wonder and anticipation about the possibilities of what the children may notice and share about the responsive materials they were offered. 

We connected with the real materials and the children noticed and compared the differences of the different eggs. We used the data to try and figure out what bird may have laid this egg? In that moment Quinn used her knowledge about field guides and offered us to use a resource to reflect with. In this moment, our preschool classroom transformed into a high school biology class. The children were sharing their insights and expertise about all the knowledge they have about birds. They were deducing this knowledge to figure out what animal this egg may have come from? We were also very lucky to have Angie as she is our on site bird expert. She offered us some hints and we continued to hypothesize. These conversations were rich with reflection and shared engagement of the children. I noticed how the children and educators acted as co-learners in this moment and I thought to myself, “Now this is magic!” 

We continued to thread this learning and excitement through the week and have evolved into a variety of different pedagogical journeys within the program. I am left thinking about the way the educators and children have a shared passion for connecting with the natural world and am proud of the important work this program is engaged with. 

I wonder what this might mean for children and the seeds that are being planted as they continue to have regular and repeated exposures to the magnificent natural world and all it’s surprise encounters.   

I wonder about the magical moments that we create for children and the way these experiences foster a love for learning with and about the natural world. 

I wonder about the new ways the natural world will continue to surprise us and offer us new ways to connect to place through natural curiosities 

And I wonder about the ways we can begin to show what we might give back to Mother Nature; this beautiful place that offers us so much without ever asking for anything back in return. How might children’s experiences with us at Discovery instil the value we hope to place on reciprocity and be a part of the change we hope to see in the world today, tomorrow, and the future? 

Jessica Holder RECE, BSc, Forest School Practitioner