Spring is perhaps the most exciting season in Nature. At Huntley Meadows hundreds of frogs appear overnight and fill the air with ecstatic mating calls. The birds erect invisible fences with song to protect the food supply they will need to feed their growing families.
Animals that have been dormant through the winter crawl out of their havens to bask in the sun. These include the turtles, dragonflies, and snakes we have been seeing at Huntley Meadows this past month. Tiny new leaves pop out of their swaddling buds, and flowers burst open, dotting the muted, green-tinged landscape with bold color. The air smells of damp soil, and under logs hide slimy pink earthworms that wriggle and tickle the children’s palms. Aren’t you glad that your child can experience this sensory feast?
Lately I have been considering what should be the goals of an outdoor learning program for young children. I want to share some of those thoughts with you.
Immersion in rich sensory experiences is one of many benefits to outdoor play and learning. These experiences, along with running, balancing, climbing, hiding and resting in natural spaces with varied terrain and challenges, help to develop children who are whole, fully integrated and capable of reaching their fullest potential for learning and physical competence. This is one of our primary goals at Frog Pond.
Children are naturally drawn to animals and growing things. Another of our goals is to spark that interest and build on it to increase their excitement about learning and their love of the world around them. “Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries,” says Richard Louv, author of the international best-seller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
“* (p. 67).
When we walk to Huntley Meadows week after week and the children are learning to know a small piece of the natural world intimately, in different seasons, weathers and times of day. They look deep beneath the surface of the water to see fish and tadpoles. They look far away to see herons or woodpeckers, and observe closely to tell if that was a beaver or a muskrat we saw. They learn to spot clues to the presence of critters we can’t see. Studying this place through a magnifying lens will give them a sense of belonging here, and open their awareness of the larger world.
We want to teach children to love and respect the earth, and to understand that all life is linked. We want them to know our lives depend on earth’s resources. Children who experience wildlife and wild places will know that they are valuable and important. Those who have never known the joys of nature won’t notice when they are gone.
So what are our learning goals at Frog Pond—our Nature “SOLs”?
- Children who are whole and healthy in brain and body.
- Children who love to learn.
- Children who know that the more they look the more they will discover.
- Children who feel at home in the world and know that they belong.
- Children who care and feel connected to the earth and all the life on it.
*Please note that a small portion of all proceeds from all purchases made using the above links will go to Frog Pond. We appreciate your support!