At last Saturday's symposium, Erica Calhoon and I led a discussion on how preschools can incorporate art into nature exploration. We divided potential art projects into three categories:
Ephemeral art- temporary art, usually made outdoors using natural materials. Examples include water paintings, mandalas, and ice sculptures.
Natural Materials- art projects that incorporate items found in nature. Examples include painted rocks, pressed flower collages, and leaf rubbings.
Plein Air- conventional art projects, such as watercolor paintings, done outside.
It was fun to share tips and hear about projects from other teachers. Here are our brainstorming posters, full of ideas to try:
What's YOUR favorite nature art project?
by Caroline Cook
One theme from the conference that surfaced again and again was the “sense of place” that we seek to develop in our children, and how the nature we grow up with shapes our values and character throughout our lives.
What, exactly, is a sense of place? Anthropologists, geographers, historians, and other social scientists have different definitions, but in general, a sense of place involves a connection to the land that involves both knowledge and emotion, and connects to the environment’s cultural history as well as its nature.
Our classroom already values place-based education; our daily observations and experiences in the park frame our literacy, math, and science curriculum. However, this year, I want to be more intentional about teaching my students that the Mercer Slough, specifically, is a special place.
Here are some changes we’re making to our curriculum:
I’m excited- as a transplant to Washington, I’ve been hoping to develop a deeper connection to Washington’s natural and cultural history, and now I have an excuse to be more intentional about it! Do you have special teaching practices that help children develop a sense of place? Please share them in the comments!
by Jess Brewer, preschool instructor, Nurture in Nature Preschool at the Tacoma Nature Center
Often, the word risk has a negative connotation and is something to be avoided or even feared. However, I was excited to see several sessions at the national conference that addressed and embraced risk as something to be encouraged and celebrated in outdoor preschool programs. Families of our incoming preschoolers at the Tacoma Nature Center’s Nurture in Nature Preschool understand that safety is our number one priority and while we do our best to prevent and predict hazards throughout our preschool day, risk taking is encouraged. As teachers, we can see the benefits of our students taking reasonable risks, but it can sometimes be a difficult sell to parents who are concerned for their child’s safety and well being. While attending a session about risk taking and risk assessment we brainstormed a comprehensive list of the benefits of risk which I wanted to share with you all as a reminder of why it is important to allow reasonable risk taking in your preschool program; and also as a communication tool for helping families understand why we promote risk taking.
Benefits of Risk:
-self regulation development
-confidence building, self satisfaction
-enhanced imagination, creativity
-partnerships, team building
-failure, coping skills
-cause and effect
-resilience, persistence, commitment
-growth, calculating risk
-proprioception (awareness of personal body movement)
Some questions to consider: What type of risk do you encourage and what do you avoid in your program? At the session, we sorted risks and hazards into six different categories: rough and tumble play, disappearing and getting lost, dangerous elements, dangerous tools, rapid speeds, and great heights. What safety measures do you have in place while students engage in risk taking activities? What will you do ‘find a way to say yes’ to your students and allow risk taking while at school?
Let’s continue the conversation! If this topic is of interest to you, please feel free to comment below and add your thoughts, ideas, and opinions.