Nature Summit 2010 Reflection

Connecting Children to Nature is very important to Day Nursery Centre.   So much so that it is included as part of our Curriculum Statement;

 There are opportunities for exploration and learning about different aspects of the living world around us.  Our educators are dedicated to providing opportunities for children to connect to nature. We encourage all children to be respectful of themselves, others and their environment.” 

In the fall of 2010 Day Nursery Centre was fortunate to send some of our staff to Manitoba’s first Nature Summit. Many of our staff have also have attended the Manitoba Nature Action Collaborative for Children meetings. This summit and these meetings have influenced and educated our staff about the importance of providing opportunities for children to experience nature and ideas on what they can do in their programs to promote play with natural materials.

This past summer we were also fortunate to secure some funding from the Winnipeg Foundation to implement what we called the “Connecting Children to Nature Summer Program” This program provided us with funding to take children from all three of our sites on weekly field trips to areas where they could experience nature to the fullest.  Some of these trips were to Birds Hill Park, Fort Whyte Nature Centre, a farm, parks etc.

We learned many lessons from the Connecting Kids to Nature program, as well as by attending the Nature Summit and attending the MCACC meetings.  Even though our staff are trained in Early Learning and Child Care and know the importance of exposing children to nature training opportunities such as the summit give them those interested a chance to learn new skills. Attending this type of focused training has further strengthened our commitment to providing naturalistic experiences and programing for the children.

The following are some of the lessons we have learned;

  •  The more experiences we provide children in nature, the more comfortable and respectful they are of the natural materials.  We have seen the children’s curiosity grow, as when they are outdoors they not only look to use the typical play equipment , but they seem to be more interested in using natural materials such as sand, mud and looking for signs of nature, bugs, birds etc.
  • Participation in this program has inspired more of our staff to use natural materials not only outdoors but also in their indoor environments environment.  Everything from room decorations, to play materials to types of toys and equipment have been gathered from nature or purchased. Those of us that did attend the summit were able to share what we learnt with our staff and coworkers and they really picked up it.
  • We have learned that you don’t have to worry about the weather, as much as we have in the past. We still use caution and keep safety in mind but instead of keeping children indoors when it rains, we now put on our rain jackets and boots and go and jump in puddles.  When it is hot outside, we use sunscreen, hats and make sure we are in the shade. This has had an effective on the attitudes of the staff throughout the day as well because of the positive effects of fresh air and getting out.
  • We have found that being in nature lessons behavioral issues with children.  Children who have a difficult time cooperating, listening and controlling emotions displayed fewer behavioral concerns while in nature.  We observed that when children have been allowed to be outdoors and be allowed to run, play, explore, that they  are more ready to learn and listen.
  • Everyone has learned how to slow down- these field trips were not fast paced and gave children lots of time for free play and adventure.  In the past we have been used to going to destinations and making sure that children were involved and busy.   We all soon learned that the natural environments were the entertainment and the children were always either busy or simply relaxing.
  • That it is important to provide information and talk with parents about the program and what benefits it will give them continually.    Parents became more accepting that their children did go home dirty at times and the reason was because they were busy playing and learning and having fun. The parents also starting telling us stories about what they were doing outside with their children and we invited parents to come along with us when we spent all day outside.
  • We also learned that not only did the children develop their gross motor skills by running, jumping, climbing etc. but they also developed their cognitive skills  as they solved problems, negotiated rules, constructed with loose parts and figured out how to navigate changes in the environment.
  • The summit gave the three of us time to think about what it could look like at Day Nursery Centre and by having an Executive Director, a Centre Director and an Early Childhood Educator there together it was great to get everyone’s distinct perspectives.

Fernanda Hodgson, Executive Director

Cassandra Fines, Centre Director

Tracy McDowell, Early Childhood Educator