As a long time educator of young children, I have always understood the importance of outside play time – but it is so easy to get stuck in patterns without stepping back and asking yourself why. It took an inspiring workshop this fall to open my eyes again to the possibilities of expanding our outside experiences with the children. Though there is certainly value to traditional playground equipment, the Dublin Community Preschool has now expanded its outside play space to include time exploring the woods.
In the last month, what we have witnessed has been astounding. Behavior issues we were seeing in the classroom that often carried over on to the playground are somehow left behind when we enter the woods. We see spontaneous cooperation and teamwork. The shyest of the shy come alive and display confidence in the woods. And no matter the personality of the child, there is something special there for everyone. The undirected play that happens in the woods has strengthened their imaginations and creativity and we have already seen this carry over into all of their play, no matter where they are, inside and out.
The feedback from parents is that our time in the woods is what they hear about even though it’s a short portion of their child’s day.
It is a magical time for the teachers too, and has helped us all remember what was most important in our early lives. We are grateful to be able to give this important connection to nature back to the children and we hope it will carry over into home time as well.
“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this earth…these are the moments when the world is made whole.” – Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods