A Day in the Life of a 4 & 5 year old

As the sun rises above the evergreen trees, signaling a new day at the Oak, our Frogs and Toads skip down the gravel path and enter their individual classroom to get geared up for another day of nature-based play and adventure. Children eyeball the pictures on the Gear Board showing today's required gear and parents assist if needed with morning routines before walking them out to the Backyard where children and teachers from the other classes eagerly await their arrival.

Joyful teachers greet families and children at the back gate setting the tone for a delightful day. Children excitedly run off to engage with friends building with loose parts, digging in the pit, trimming the wildflowers, balancing on the seesaw, or creating culinary delights in the mud kitchen before we circle up as a school for our Morning Gathering singalong. The call is sounded to fly over to their backpacks, "get it on, get it on," and pick a spot on the hike line. Hat covered heads are counted by 1's, 2's, 5's, or 10's in English, Spanish, or French, and the destination for Base Camp is set. 

After a musical march through the woods, following the Earth, Fire, Air, or Water Trail, and over the Cedar Bridge, we finally arrive at Base Camp. The children pick a log to sit on, take off their backpacks, take out their snacks and water bottles, and show they are ready for the daily greeting and Mindful Moment to connect with nature.

bed rocks, sticks to add to any number of ongoing castles around the property, fallen trees perfect for climbing, a frog oasis, mud for facials, or a tuft of deer fur needed by the gnomes for their boots. By the sound of a chickadee, the children all return to Base Camp, put on their backpacks, count their heads again, and hike back to school.

Back in their sunlit-filled classroom, teeming with photographs of documented learning, nature brought in from outside or home, and inspiring materials just calling their names, the children begin Indoor Exploration. This time is ripe with creativity, problem-solving, cooperation, social lessons all embedded in the blocks and loose parts, the message table, the always-popular kitchen/store, and a snuggly sofa to browse a book with a friend or teacher. The classroom buzzes with play, laughter, music, hands-on work, and togetherness.

While mouths are busily munching snacks, a teacher reads a book or presents a lesson. Curious listeners learn about animals, their seasonal behavior and their habitats, about feelings and how to express them, about the trees around us and how to identify them by bark, leaf, or needle, or may get a list of items to "hunt for" during their Nature Play. 

With snacks properly digested and tucked away, the young naturalists are ready to roam! Discoveries may include, but are in no way limited to: crayfish hiding under creek

But alas, the gentle chime and song tell us it is time to clean up. It is Friday, which means Buddy Lunch - everyone's favorite! The PreK'ers gather their lunches and head down the hallway to find their younger buddy, and lead them by the hand to the bathroom where they assist with proper "white glove handwashing" technique. They pick a seat next to each other so as to enjoy polite table conversation over their meal before 1 o'clock pick-up or, if staying full-day, are encouraged to listen to their bodies and opt to rest if desired until afternoon snack and time to go home.

It has been another full day at the Oak!

a progressive school for children who are serious about dirt and squirmy things

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© 2018 by Painted Oak Nature School

174 Lambertville Hopewell Road 

Hopewell, New Jersey  08525



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