A Day in the Life of a Nature Preschooler
As the sun rises above the evergreen trees, signaling a new day at the Oak, our youngest Oakers - the Honeybees and Chickadees, toddle up the gravel path on their way to their classroom, stopping for every little bug, leaf, or interesting pebble. Once reaching the summit of the front porch, they happily enter to get geared up for another day of nature-based play and adventure. Parents help their nature preschooler with morning routines and walk 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 find familiar faces playing in the cabin, digging in the pit, jumping in puddles from last night's rain, 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, backpacks, get it on, get it on," and pick a spot on the hike line. Hat covered heads are counted by 1's in English or Spanish 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. They wait eagerly to see if it will be their day to wear the greeting apron and be the one to look their classmates in the eye and say, "Good Morning" like an alligator, a crab, or a butterfly.
While little mouths are busy munching snacks, a teacher reads a book or presents a lesson. Wide-eyed listeners learn about shapes, wriggly worms, "round and round or up and down" lines for our mark-making journals, or how to find the perfect stick.
With snacks properly digested and tucked away, the "bugs and birds" are ready to roam! Discoveries may include, but are in no way limited to: a cute squirmy wormy, a huge mushroom hiding under leaf litter (not to be touched, of course!,) a Y-stick, ooey gooey mud for squishing, or a new gnome hole. By the sound of a chickadee, all the children 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, fish and plants to be cared for, and inspiring materials just calling their names, the children begin Indoor Exploration. This time is ripe with creativity, problem-solving, cooperation, social interactions, and building of relationships all embedded among the blocks and loose parts, the mark-making area, the family/restaurant zone, and quiet nooks to share with one other person or a stuffed friend. The classroom buzzes with play, laughter, music, and movement.