Playing in the mud kick starts education at West Shore Parks and Rec

West Shore recreation program instills interest in environment even before kids hit the classroom

Nature Preschool students and instructor Suzanne Miner learn about the salmon run on a fieldtrip to Goldstream Park.

Counting slugs and measuring mud puddles is how some tots are learning preschool basics.

West Shore Parks and Recreation opened its first registered nature preschool program Jan. 8.

WSPR hosted a pilot program September through December. The pilot program ran with seven children, but the official program is open for 15 four-year-olds to explore the outdoors in preparation for kindergarten.

“It’s really a child-directed program,” said Lindsay Kemble, a nature preschool instructor. She explained the daily curriculum can change when the children find a patch of mushrooms or a prickly plant that they want to explore or learn more about.

“We really need kids to be interested in the environment for our future,” Kemble said, adding it’s important to get them more interested in the outdoors than being in front of screens.

The program is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

Six of the children from the pilot program are already enrolled in the program.

The youngsters carry supplies on their backs and the world becomes their classroom rain or shine.

Dressed in plenty of layers and rain gear, Kemble said the children do just fine out in the rain.

“We are just trying to find a good way to keep their hands warm,” she added.

Only once during the pilot program were the children brought inside due to strong wind.

The pilot program at WSPR began at the same time as the nature kindergarten pilot program at Sangster elementary school in Colwood.

“Our nature preschool parents say they will line up to get their kids in nature kindergarten,” said Lori Argyle, nature preschool programmer.