At five years old Eli Thuot already knows what he wants to be – a nature explorer.
Following his bliss Eli is just one of the 22 students in the nature kindergarten program at Sangster elementary school, the first school in B.C. offering the program.
Every morning Eli and his classmates head to the neighbouring forest at Royal Roads University.
The young boy beams with excitement as he explains his new nature kit – a pencil, paper and a magnifying glass – to his parents.
“We do lots of exploring,” he said.
Wearing rain gear and a special backpack with emergency tools such as a whistle, emergency blanket and a snack, Eli is ready to explore.
“We know students learn in different ways,” said Sangster principal Maureen Laureen. “The forests, ocean and streams, they are your classroom and they will reveal tremendous things for you.”
Safety plays a key role in the course and before the children ever set out in the forest, safety issues were addressed with them.
“The children have adapted really well,” Laureen said.
While the mornings are dedicated for outdoors, in the afternoon the students return to the typical classroom environment.
The school was able to raise more than $100,000 in grants to help make to program a reality. The grants were used to cover expenses such as providing rain gear and sunglasses to the students and cover extra staffing costs.
This is a two-year pilot project. 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.