Tawingo College and Outdoor Full-Day Early-Learning Kindergarten
In the Northern landscape of Muskoka, Ontario, one of Canada's Outdoor Kindergarten programs can be seen practicing it's philosophy that children are happiest, healthiest, and most open to learning opportunities when they are outside interacting with nature. Outdoor Kindergarten teacher, Petra Eperjesi, began the school year with the big idea of building structures, since the children were already fervently building forts in their exploratory times of play in their natural environment.
“We started by issuing them a challenge: ‘Do you think that you could build a structure that all of you could fit under?’ It was then important for me not to decide ahead of time what we were going to do and when, but rather to imagine all of the directions that they might take it. Week by week we decided which direction to pursue or we threw it back to the children to see what direction they were most interested in pursuing. The students also had to make a plan. We sat one-on-one with each child so they could explain and draw initial understandings of where and how they would build. We then had our whole group knowledge building circle after they had a chance to think a little more."
Questions of how to make a strong foundation, how to stay sheltered from the rain, and how to keep warm, all came up in the initial and continuous conversations throughout this experiential learning process. Knowledge building and planning conversations took place outside so that the children could draw from their own experience right in the midst of the environment they would be building in. And while students experimented with sticks and mud, sat amongst the leaves to discuss ideas, and engaged in read-alouds under an awning to stay dry from the rain, it became clear that with some modification, almost all of the strategies and processes used at Tawingo would be transferrable to other, more urban, contexts.
To view part one of this mini series, which outlines and documents foundational teacher philosophy and student-learning in the out-of-doors, visit our vimeo channel. Part two, including videos highlighting the current work discussed above, will be available on the website soon. Natural Curiosity is grateful to be continuing our partnership with Tawingo College and looks forward to learning more from the teachers and students as they interact with their natural world.