Like most of my generation, I grew up close to nature and I know now that my childhood memories are a luxury. Remember when kids came home when the streetlights came on, having spent the evening playing outdoors with friends? We played hopscotch and tag.
We made up games and stories as we discovered the world outside our homes. We did not have toys designed to develop skills or abilities but we never lacked those attributes. Because they lie within each child, waiting to be awakened.
As a mother raising a child in New York, I know that I want to give my child the opportunity to learn, play and explore. So when we started thinking about what we wanted for Elements – an urban nature pre-school – our first goal was to create the experience of being in a forest or wooded area in a backyard of 3500 sq feet in the heart of a city.
We wanted children to be able to touch the soil, play with water, sit under trees and help grow produce. We wanted stations for art, and enough space for both dramatic play and unstructured play. Luckily, we found a team who believed in that vision, who helped
create this space. And then we crafted a curriculum that allows a child to explore, experience and discover.
Every child has talents and every child learns in its own way. At Elements, we believe that given the right environment, space and support, every child can awaken its special genius.
We celebrate each student for being herself and himself. They are given the information and tools they need, and then encouraged to think and imagine. The outdoors provides a diverse, versatile environment for this, as against classrooms, which are very structured in nature.
For instance, if our students are to learn about worms, one way to do it would be to use teaching aids and maybe bring one worm into the classroom in a jar and pass it around. Here’s how we chose to approach it. A discussion about worms was started in the classroom, and the kids were encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. Then, everyone put on their raincoats and boots and headed out into the garden, when it was raining. The kids loved digging around, trying to find worms and they could see that the rain brought the worms out. The sense of excitement as they searched and joy as they found worms could never be recreated in a classroom.
Experiential learning helps building curious, imaginative and creative minds that actively think and not just follow.
More about this next week, in our next post about Learning at Elements.
Thank you for reading!