Nature Preschool loves Earth Day

Children Need NatureBy Shannon Dryden, Nature Preschool Manager and Sweet Gum Classroom Lead Teacher

At Nature Preschool, our children are immersed in outdoor experiences daily, connecting them to their surroundings and the Schuylkill Center in a meaningful way.  At events like Naturepalooza, the children show their expanding knowledge and the bonds created through open-ended exploration.  Learning through play and touching, feeling, smelling, tasting, and hearing is what these children do best and it brings joy and happiness in many ways.  Just look at the smiles!  Below, some highlights from Earth Day and Naturepalooza with our preschool.

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Children Need Nature is a monthly blog column from our Nature Preschool program. Read more posts here.

Open-ended learning in nature

childrenneednature-01By Shannon Dryden, Nature Preschool Manager and Sweet Gum Classroom Lead Teacher

Crack, splash, plop, and snap – followed by sounds of children laughing as they explore the melting ice at Polliwog Pond.  “Look at this piece, I can see through it!” Next up, “I’m selling ice. Who wants a piece?” as an ice display is quickly assembled. A group of nearby preschoolers responds, “I do.  I do.” Then, the adventures begin as the children carefully select the perfectly shaped piece of ice for their next escapade. A natural material provides inspiration and imagination amongst the children. Continue reading

Winterfest with Nature Preschool: Winter, Stars, & Nature Crafts

childrenneednature-01By Shannon Dryden, Nature Preschool Manager and Sweet Gum Classroom Lead Teacher

Stars are a practical and magical symbol for children and adults alike. They are a mystery of the sky, full of gas, providing us with light, and are still something that we don’t yet fully understand. They are a symbol of hope, something to wish upon, or a picture to represent many holiday celebrations this time of year. With the dawn of the winter season upon us and the upcoming winter solstice, Schuylkill Center just held its annual Winterfest, a star themed family event welcoming Schuylkill Center Nature Preschool families and community members alike to join together in discussion, crafts and night hikes.

After spending the first part of the year getting to know one another, the Sweet Gums and Sycamores now are more comfortable at Schuylkill Center with their families, teachers, and friends. They now feel connected to the Center and acknowledge their roles as learners, planners, and leaders in their environmental interaction. We decided to share our experiences, and give the public a chance to get a sneak-peek at Nature Preschool by offering a special craft activity at Winterfest.

In preparation for Winterfest, the preschoolers began the week talking about the event, this special occasion to celebrate the changing of seasons. This prompted them to take the lead in sharing ideas for crafts and what we could do on that day. We shared the theme of stars with the children and invited them to tell us what they know about stars. The children immediately began saying things like, “They are big!”, “They are hot”, “Some are yellow and some are not!” Their curiosity was piqued as they began asking questions such as “How many stars are there?” Continue reading

Weaving Art into Nature

By Ezra Tischler, Public Relations and Environmental Art Intern

LandLab resident artists Kaitlin Pomerantz and Zya Levy, of WE THE WEEDS, have been busy collecting invasive plants like oriental bittersweet, mile-a-minute, wisteria, Japanese stiltgrass, and bush honeysuckle at the Schuylkill Center. These gathered vines are then woven together using hand-built looms, creating beautiful tapestries of varying color and texture. Be sure to check out their guest blog post detailing the process and progress of their botanical weaving project.

Zya, taking full advantage of her resident artist title, recently spent some time exploring the Schuylkill Center’s property. Her exploration resulted in some impromptu land art capturing the transitory nature of autumn. Dried grasses and fallen vines clumped together in mounds may not catch the eye of most meadow visitors. Zya, however, saw the mounds as an opportunity to create temporary nests. Here is a gallery of some of the nests, but they won’t last long and are certainly worth seeing in person:

Zya also met with visiting groups from Nature Preschool, inviting the children to try their hand at botanical weaving:

 

All About Apples

childrenneednature-01By Shannon Dryden, Preschool Manager and Sweet Gum Classroom Lead Teacher

The beginning of the year at preschool means apples!  For most preschools, this is also the case, but at Schuylkill Center Nature Preschool, an interest in apples developed from enjoying apples snacks to the preschoolers’ observations along the trails.  Playing and exploring outside led to a deeper association with apples.

10.1 RD6As both classes walked along various trails (getting to know our outdoor community), they started classifying the types of trees with their teachers’ help, by looking at the shape of the leaves, the bark, and branches.  Inspired by the changing colors and fall, the children have also been talking about activities like apple picking, visiting a farm, and going on nature hikes with their families.  We noticed children bringing in apples at lunch, which sparked conversations about where apples come from.  This gave the class an idea – let’s visit the orchard.  What you may not know is that the Schuylkill Center property includes a small intimate crab apple orchard that blossoms with color and fruit this time of year.

We asked the children what an orchard was and they shared many ideas including, “it’s a group of trees” or “I’ve been to an orchard.  There are apples there!” We continued to guide the children in critical thinking by asking, “Where do apples come from?”  Using this new interest in apples, we led the children through a special cooking activity for Back to School Night.  We followed a recipe and enjoyed measuring, scooping, pouring, and mixing the ingredients.  Each class used an apple peeler and corer and combined cinnamon and apples in a crock pot to create applesauce. Continue reading

Nature Preschool, Community-Building, and Responsibility Rocks!

By Shannon Dryden, Nature Preschool Manager and Sweet Gum Lead Teacher

childrenneednature-01The first few weeks of Nature Preschool have started off with a busy buzz and hum as the two classrooms, Sweet Gum and Sycamore, have filled with children, conversations, artwork, lunch boxes, water bottles, and more.  It may seem silly but every September I am reminded how the beginning of the year reinvigorates teachers and classrooms as new personalities come together to build a community. It is loud (as it should be), it is busy (many moving bodies), it is messy (children’s hands at work), it is full of questions, thoughts, and ideas as the pieces of the classroom puzzle are beginning to fit together. Continue reading

Searching, Soaring, and Sifting with Summer Camp

childrenneednature-01By Shannon Dryden, Preschool Manager and Lead Teacher

“Look, Miss Shannon, when I turn it over, I found green. What do you think that is?”

“This piece is shiny, it must be polished.”

“I can see the sparkles…it’s the schist!”

Learning about a frogAs the Preschool Summer Campers dispersed among tables filled with rocks, minerals, magnifying glasses, dishes, paintbrushes, and water, they immediately began to inquire and connected their questioning and observations with the visit from a preschool science expert on rocks.  One little boy brushed both sides of his rock and was amazed as he turned it over to see the split rock and the imprint and colors become more clear.  He exclaimed, “Look, it’s the crystal, the geode!”  The Preschool Nature Ramblers have been engaged in activities enriching their outdoor connections and building upon those extended periods of exploration and play since the very beginning of the summer. Continue reading

Kindness Week at Nature Preschool

childrenneednature-01By Shannon Dryden, Preschool Manager and Lead Teacher

When people think of school and what children learn, it’s important to remember it’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic.  Particularly in preschool, building social skills is key.  At the Schuylkill Center Nature Preschool, the children have demonstrated how much they have learned about kindness, cooperation, relationships, and compassion.  Throughout the year, we have built a community of trust and love between children, adults, and nature.  This week, we celebrated all the kind acts of our children with a kindness week.   Continue reading

Nature Preschool goes camping

By Rebecca Dhondt, Preschool Teacher

Last week Nature Preschool went camping right in our Tall Trees Playscape.  We talked about camping, read about camping, sang about camping and probably dreamed about camping on our rest mats.  Activities included playing in tents, snuggling in sleeping bags, hiking, using mess kits, learning about building fires and ‘roasting’ marshmallows.

Camping in Tall Trees Playscape (1)After reading a camping story, the Nature Preschoolers were excited about creating their own camping story.  We took the opportunity to teach about the parts of a story: beginning, middle and end; problem and solution; and characters and setting.  After brainstorming we created this tale called Nature Preschool and the Tent of Terror.

Once upon a time, Nature Preschool went to a campsite in Delaware.  Continue reading