UVic early childhood researcher Enid Elliot and SD 62 district principal Frances Krusekopf are working to launch a nature kindergarten program based at Sangster elementary and Royal Roads next September. The program will seek to keep kids

Into the woods

one class of 22 kids based out of Sangster will spend mornings exploring the environment

Pilot kindergarten class amid the RRU forest next year, rain or shine

When three-and-a-half year old Dexter Heath walks down a forest trail at Royal Roads University, it doesn’t take him long to grab a big red maple leaf, pull apart a pine cone and pick a chunk of bark off a Douglas fir.

Nature as a learning space is an idea the Sooke School District plans to embrace, literally. Dexter could be among the first cohort of kids using the Royal Roads forest as a classroom next year.

The district plans to roll out a “nature kindergarten” pilot in September 2012, where one class of 22 kids based out of Sangster elementary will spend their mornings exploring the natural environment, rain or shine.

“We want kids to develop an appreciation for the environment, spend more time outdoors, and develop a sense of environmental stewardship,” said Frances Krusekopf, SD 62 district principal of curriculum and programs. “Children will spend their mornings in nature, regardless of the weather, in the Royal Roads forest, on the lagoon or near the water.”

A typical day for this class might involve getting hands-on with plants, trees, and intertidal life, learning names of flora and fauna and having play time outside. The afternoon would be back in the classroom.

“A big piece of (nature kindergarten) is that children walk quite a bit, they’re a lot more physically active in the outdoors,” Krusekopf said. “The concept is about learning in nature and following the natural cycles of the seasons.”

The original “forest preschools” concept emerged in Sweden decades ago, and has been used in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and a few places in Canada. The SD 62 pilot project is budgeted at $80,000 for two years, and includes a teacher and early childhood educator. Krusekopf is actively seeking grants to fund the nature kindergarten program.

Part of the budget is to ensure the kids have the proper clothing for wind, rain and snow conditions – they don’t want 22 four and five-years-olds getting cold and cranky in the middle of a forest.

“If children are dressed for the weather, children are less likely to notice the weather than adults,” Krusekopf said. “Children truly want to go outside and splash around in a puddle.”

Sooke School District trustee chair Wendy Hobbs suspects parents won’t apply for nature K if they feel their child won’t enjoy the outdoors. “Parents know their child and know if their children would do well in a program like this.”

The school board has backed this pilot project, Hobbs said, as it will help further diversify education programs in the district.

“There are many different ways children learn, and this is one of the them,” she said. “We’ve got hockey academy, a trades school. This is one more feature to show parents this is an exciting education district to be in.

“The board is definitely looking forward to see how nature kindergarten progresses.”

Enid Elliot, an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria’s school of child and youth care, plans to research and document the experience of SD 62’s nature K to help other districts follow suit.

Nature K could become an important tool to stem the tide of kids alienated from nature, Elliot said, as technology envelops young peoples’ lives.

“So many people are worried children are hooked into the Internet and aren’t going outside,” she said. “This is an opportunity to connect kids with the natural landscape, this provides the opportunity when they’re impressionable. Children are such hands-on learners.”

Nature kindergarten will be based out of a modular classroom at Sangster school, which is on the southern periphery of Royal Roads campus. RRU itself, the University of Victoria, Camosun College and the Royal B.C. Museum are also interested in participating in aspects of the program.

“Nature kindergarten is an innovative idea at many levels,” Krusekopf said. “This many groups collaborating with the school district is innovative in itself.”

Check out naturekindergarten.sd62.bc.ca.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

 

Just Posted

Canadians smoke less according to community health survey

Obesity and heavy drinking rates remain steady

Garden suite applications on the rise, but not without a few hitches: staff report

Victoria city council to hear update on revised garden suite application process

Armoury event highlights Canada’s D-Day efforts in Normandy

Event runs Saturday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Bay Street Armoury

Canada Day comes early with Oak Bay celebration

Fun continues with first free concert in the park Friday evening

Bed Races on Beacon teams make final preparations

CCM Construction ready to defend their title on July 7

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the penalty should be increased for tossing a burning cigarette from a vehicle?

With grasslands and forests around Vancouver Island and across B.C. reaching tinder… Continue reading

Four-hour tarmac delay violates charter rights of Canadians with a disability: lawsuit

Bob Brown says new rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Most Read