Nature-Based Learning (NBL) uses aspects of the environment as both classroom and curriculum; the teaching and learning approach can be both guided learning and self-directed exploration.
Outside time is provided multiple times daily. A specially designed outdoor area has a garden with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers, a bike/walking path, play structure with two slides, a large sand box, a water table, sensory table, two mud kitchens, play house, a hammock swing and seating area, an art easel, nature exploration areas, a table for activities and eating, and a ride-on vehicle for each child. Uninterrupted periods of discovery and a prepared environment provide a Montessori and Waldorf opportunity for natural learning.
Additionally, the monthly themes of our curriculum extend into the NBL provided outside with seasonal materials, themed materials, tools, and lessons. For example, February’s theme includes Junior Scouts, where we use tools for discovering geocaches.
Many monthly themes are nature-specific, such as learning about life cycles in April’s ‘Life on the Farm’ theme, understanding effects of weather, season, and day/night for ‘Plants and Animals’ in October, and habitats and biomes in November’s theme of ‘All About Trees!’. For December’s “Our Solar System”, we explore the natural phenomena of the moon, sun, Earth, planets, and other features of our solar system. These lessons take place both inside and also outside in our “nature classroom”. As mentioned above, rotating themed materials and tools are introduced each week for hands-on practice and self-directed exploration. Organic gardening is taught year-round and the children truly love using their own harvests for lunch and snacks! All plants and flowers in the play areas are non-toxic.
Our biome centers are set up to complement monthly themes to let the children explore the plants and animals in different habitats. For example, July’s Summer Splash camp will have a beach and ocean habitat area with a variety of shells, a water-play table, sea animal models (crabs, starfish, etc.), and toys that are ocean/beach specific (boats, fishing, etc.).
Imagination and creativity blossom in our building area with leaves, sticks, feathers, clay and stones, and other materials to build a fairy or bird houses, wind chimes, a nest, paw print molds, and more.
Rest and relaxation areas are available for children to have a quiet picnic or to watch the birds, blue-belly lizards, dragonflies and butterflies. Sometimes it is drawing with chalk or blowing bubbles that appeals to them! Outdoor pleasure equates with tending to our nature area with care and respect.