Innovating My Own Nature Based Learning Program

Based on all that I’ve learnt regarding nature based learning in play throughout the last three years, especially in this course, I am looking forward to incorporating nature based learning into my program. However, if I was to create my own learning program that was specifically all nature based, this is how it would look like.

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Many of the things shown in these different photos, would be what I would incorporate into my nature based learning program. I love the idea of overall having it look very nature based, by having all of the furniture be wooden, grass instead of carpet or tiles in some sections in the classroom, and tree logs as chairs to put in the carpet area for children and educators to sit on.

I overall love the idea of having the classroom and inquiry child-centered, meaning that everything is based on the children’s interests, rather than the educators interests. I would have all of the decorations in the classroom be things that the children created, to have them feel a sense of well-being and belonging within the classroom environment. In regards to materials, I would encourage to have the children gather loose parts during some of the time that we spend outdoors, that way it ensures that the materials they use, are things they would love to use. In regards to inquiry and lessons that we have in the classroom every week, would be based on ideas and questions that children have when they explore the outdoors. Some ideas of things we could do as a class together, is have the children plant their own seeds, and have one child be responsible to water the plants each week, and have the children write down what they observe every week, and write about it in a log book.

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How Does Learning Happen & Their Thoughts On Nature Based Learning

How Does Learning Happen is Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, and a document that educators refer to in their experience with working with children. The document contains lots of information regarding their thoughts on nature based learning, the benefits it has for children, and how it can enhance children’s sense of wonder and joy in the world around them. (How Does Learning Happen, 2016). The document informs parents and educators who refer to this, that research has suggests that connecting to the natural world, can contribute to children’s mental, emotional, physical, health, and overall well-being. It is important that children are providing with daily opportunities to explore and interact with their natural surroundings.

How Does Learning Happen is organized around four foundational elements that important for children’s growth and development. These four foundations include belonging, well-being, expression, and engagement. For children exploring the outdoors, it can benefits and improve these four foundations.

  • Belonging: children who have the opportunity to explore the outdoor environment, are able to develop a sense of connectedness to the natural world.
  • Well-Being: The well-being of children refers to mental and physical wellness. Children who play outdoors are able to engage in activities such as climbing, running, walking, to improve their gross motor skills. They are also able to develop a sense of self when exploring through nature.
  • Engagement: When children able to explore the world around them with their natural curiosity, they become fully engaged in what is going on around them, in this case nature. Through nature play, children can develop and improve their creativity skills, and as well as problem solving skills.
  • Expression: When children play outdoors, they are able to communicate through their body language or words, how they feel and what they see during their experiences in nature. This helps improve and support children’s communication skills.

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#Week6

How Nature Based Learning Supports Healthy Development

“Naturalized outdoor learning environments (OLEs) stimulate the diversity
of children’s play experience and contribute to their healthy development.” It is not a surprise to know that many children nowadays are spending less time outdoors, and more time engaging in activities like watching television, or playing on the computer. There are many research out there that proves the benefits of nature based learning, and how it positively impacts children’s overall growth and development. (Natural Learning Initiative, 2012).

  • Nature based learning supports many developmental domains, in which those include social-emotional, physical (gross and fine motor skills), and cognitive. It also supports creativity skills, when children are using loose part materials, as well as supports and helps them develop their problem solving skills.
  • Spending time outdoors also reduces stress within children. Children’s exposure to outdoor spaces could help decrease children’s’ stress levels by offering them an escape from life’s daily routine. Research has shown that kids who play outside found peace away from stresses in the classroom and daily life.
  • It improves social skills – is benefits social skills within children, executive functions, and behavioural skills. It also strengthens the language and communication interactions between children who engage in play in places like the park together. (The Care, 2018).
  • Improve nutrition – One great activity that parents can do with their children, is to grow fruits and vegetables with their children at home. Research has shown children who grow their own fruits and vegetables, tend to show higher levels of knowledge regarding nutrition. They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits. (Natural Learning Initiative, 2012)

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#Week5

Resources On Nature Based Learning

The internet is the perfect place for educators and parents to find resources regarding nature based learning, and how it can benefit children. Here are some that I found that I think are great resources to check out:

Resource 1 – Link: http://www.greenheartsinc.org/uploads/A_Parents__Guide_to_Nature_Play.pdf

This is a great resource for parents to read regarding nature based learning and play. It sums up the idea of how nature play has always been an important and big part of many people childhoods, however explains how and why “nature play” has changed over last few decades. This articles also discusses the powerful and positive impacts that nature play has on children’s overall growth and development, what parents can do to restore nature play, and the three great keys to nature play.

Resource 2 – Link: https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/children-and-nature/

This is a great article that I came across recently that discusses something called “nature deficit disorder,” which defined as “the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” (Great Schools, 2018). It share with us the importance of nature play and how children in today’s generation, spend less time outdoors than their parents did as children.

In this article, it shares research that has been done that supports anecdotal evidence of nature’s therapeutic effects — on children, adults, and communities as a whole. It mentions that time out of doors reduces symptoms in children with ADHD. They also demonstrated a link between exposure to nature and increased self-discipline in girls, and a third study found that vegetation reduces crime in urban communities. (Great Schools, 2018)

Resource 3 – Link: https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/time-outside-can-improve-readiness-learn

The NAEYC has many articles that surround the topic of nature learning and its benefits for children. This article in particular discusses how spending time outdoors, can improve their readiness to learn inside. It is broken down into discusses the power of outdoors, and breaks down how parents can encourage their children to spend time outdoors.

 

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#Week4

Social Media As a Professional Learning Tool

We live in the information/digital era, where many of our daily activities take place online, whether that is our personal or professional life. Social media especially has become a huge part of many people’s life, where we are connecting through several different social media outlets like, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Everything we do is through technology and social media, even this assignment.

Over the last few years, I have learned about how social media is used as a professional learning tool, and how it can benefit many students, educators, and parents. A growing number of educators in different level of educational settings, are using social media as a way to stay connected with students, share information with them, keep them more engaged, and the classroom more relevant and accessible. (The Education Partners, 2018).

Social media used in professional learning environments can benefit students overall learning in several different ways. For one, many students no matter what age (and this is what I have personally seen in my classes), have either a smartphone or laptop that they use on a daily basis, even multiple times a day, where they can stay connected with other classmates and professors. We are able to share information with one another so quickly with the click of a button, and keep each other updated on assignments, etc.

This course is a perfect example on how social media is a great tool to incorporate into the classroom. As a class, we were able to use social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to stay connected at all times, and share information and experiences with one another on a daily basis. We had the opportunity to create this blog site as an assignment, to discuss and share our experiences and the information we find, regarding nature based learning, that we can always have as a tool to look back at, at any time in the future as educators in the early learning field.

As a future educator, I will most likely use social media as a professional learning tool in my classroom. In my first and second year, I did my placement at a child care centre, where the educators used Story Park to share photos and information of the children in the classroom with the parents. This was beneficial, because it was an easy and quick way for educators to share things with the parents, and the parents were able to see and be updated on what their child(ren) are doing in the program on a daily basis.

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#Week4

Princples of Forest Schools & Nature-Based Learning

“Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.” (Forest School Association, 2018). There are many important principles to forest schools and nature-based learning that I would include in my work with children. These principles include:

Principle 1: The most important thing about nature based learning is to provide children with lots of time to explore the outdoor natural environment everyday. Allowing children to play outdoors more frequently would benefit children more, than to only allow outdoor play a few times a week. Allowing children to spend time in nature can lead to some of the most enjoyable and profound learning experiences. In Forest Schools especially, it is important to have a structure, that is based on observations, and ensuring that this structure that you have going on, is showing progression of learning and growth for the children.

Principle 2: Another important principle to nature based learning, is providing the children with enough space for them to explore and discover the environment around them at all times. This is important to always keep in mind as an educator, so that children are also interested and engaged.

Principle 3: Child-centered learning is also something I would encourage in my experience with children in the future as an educators. Child centered learning is when children are the ones who are determining how the classroom is going to be set up, or what materials they want to engage with, and this is all based on the children’s interests. This is beneficial in outdoor nature based learning, when the children are exploring the outdoor environment around them, and they have questions about a particular thing they saw or experienced, and this leads to an inquiry based lesson that was planned based on the children’s interests.

Principle 4: Risky play is very beneficial to children’s learning. It allows for children to learn from the mistakes they make from playing and exploring outdoors, and the mistakes and failure that they experience, will lead to them having motivation in trying new things or new ways of doing things. Risky play is considered to be a natural part of children’s play, and children often seek out opportunities for engaging in challenging and so called risky play. (Outdoor Learning In The Early Years, 2018).

Principle 5: As a future educator, another principle that I will encourage and practice when during my experiences working with children will be to always ensure that I am providing them with enough materials to explore and play with, especially materials that are based on children’s interests. I will also encourage to the children to find loose parts during outdoor play that they can collect and use for indoor play. Loose parts are open ended materials that children can use in many different ways, and get creative with.

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#Week3

Reflection On My Childhood

Hi my name is Iva Marjanovic, and I am currently in my third year in the Bachelor of Early Learning and Community Development program at Algonquin College. I am really looking forward to using this blog and sharing it with you all, to share my insights, experiences, photos/videos, etc during this semester.

My childhood experiences has influenced my values and beliefs regarding nature-based learning in many different ways. Throughout my whole childhood, I spent most of my free time playing outside with my older brother and our friends. We lived right across the street from a big park, so that influenced parents on our street, and around us, to encourage their kids to spent their time outdoors rather than indoors. We only had one desktop computer in my household that we all shared, however my brother and I overall did not use it that often, except for when we wanted to listen to some music.

With that being said, one of the biggest difference in which children live and play today, compared to my generation, is the use of technology. I have a niece and nephew, who are both under the age of five years old, and I am able to see for myself the impact that technology has on children nowadays. Children in my generation used to play outside, ride their bikes, play at the park, etc, while children now, rely on technology to keep themselves busy.

Hopefully one day when I have children myself, I will use my beliefs and values regarding nature-based learning, to encourage my kids to spend their time outdoors, rather than depending on technology.

 

 

#Week 2