Where can your child harvest tomatoes from a community garden, snuggle some hens and collect their fresh eggs, brush baby goats and feed kudzu to a miniature donkey, observe onsite honeybees at work, find frogs and turtles in a nearby pond, identify mushrooms and caterpillars in the surrounding woods, toast pumpkin seeds over an open fire, and enjoy songs and stories in a circle of friends – all in one happy, carefree morning? Nature Preschool!
A Nature preschool provides an alternate pathway from the direction many schools are heading. At the kindergarten where I used to teach, children were tested before entering to see if they could count to 100 and perfectly recite all the letter names and sounds. They were divided into reading level groups and were expected to meet numerous benchmarks throughout the year. I witnessed firsthand the unhealthy pressure this placed upon young children. This doesn’t necessarily prioritize children’s social, emotional, and mental wellbeing. A preschool should be a place where each child can feel joy, wonder, safety, connectedness, confidence, and love.
Nature schooling is an attempt to mend our relationship with the Earth, which has been interrupted through settler colonialism and unsustainable industries. At this time of unprecedented climate crisis, it is our responsibility to preserve the safety of coming generations. What better way to do this than to ensure that our children are responsibly educated? When our students pause to watch a spider spin her web or examine slime mold through a magnifying glass, they begin to understand the vital role each organism plays in an ecosystem. We nurture children’s personal connections to nature, building the foundation they will need to advocate for the environment throughout their lives.
When I got lucky enough to be offered the position of lead teacher at this gem of a school, I immediately (and ecstatically!) accepted. I’ve been researching nature- based early childhood programs for two years, and this is the only one I found that offers such a unique combination of so many wonderful elements. I’ve seen plenty of forest schools that take place outdoors, and a few garden schools in the mix, but never one where the children get to freely explore nature AND participate in real, meaningful work at a farm and garden to interrupt poverty and serve the community. If it sounds too good to be true, drop by for a visit. Just be sure to bring your favorite rubber boots – you might get a little muddy!
The Robin’s Nest practices nature schooling, which is a concept that takes various names and forms. Forest schooling, a type of outdoor education well known in Scandinavian countries, has become more popular worldwide in recent years. Wild schooling and place-based education are similar forms of nature-immersive learning that are growing among homeschooling and early childhood communities. Although these seem like new ideas, we recognize that Indigenous peoples worldwide have been advocating for and practicing environmental education long before the term “forest school” was coined.
November Calendar in Our Giving Garden
November all Month: Online Silent Auction:
The auction will start Nov 1 and end Nov 30. This is a great way to get a jump on Holiday Shopping AND donate to the Garden. Link to sign up: Www.charityauctionstoday.com/auctions/our-giving-garden
Nov 2: Natural Comfort Measures for Labor 5-6pm. Certified Labor Doula, Kayla Coons and Child Educator will lead this 1 hour workshop on natural comfort measures during labor that partners can use to support the laboring mother in or out of the hospital. Children welcome.
Nov 14: Visible Mending Workshop 7pm. Katie Burgoon will lead this workshop on mending clothes, shoes, sweaters and even socks! Bring something you have that needs mending. Workshop is free and donations encouraged.
Nov 18: Los Bravos Smyrna Give back Day: Visit anytime to this location and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Giving Garden.