Tender Root Forest Kindergarten Program
Lush green, ancient trees holding the wisdom of the world, and purple beauty berries; sprinkled on the bushes, like they were just meant to be picked and enjoyed by children, for eating, making potions, collecting, and feeding to the birds surrounding us.
Our children quickly learn how to make fairy presents and fairy backpacks for school, where they spend endless hours wrapping tiny purple gems in leaves and sewing them up with pine needles.
What a delight!
And a wonderful way for our new formed class to begin gentle friendships – deeply connected and immersed in nature’s beauty.
Taking the children to the forest, whether as part of the kindergarten program, or our weekly forest days in the grades, enhances our curriculum by adding in nature immersion, awareness and connection.
Nature Immersion is defined as “unstructured free time in nature resulting in an intimate, deep and personal connection to the natural world”.
That means their play is not directed – they are free to dream up all sorts of activities and games with one another, or simply enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by a lush tropical jungle.
Teachers are present as loving assistants, and go with the flow of learning.
The children make forts, palm fronds become brooms with which to tend their homes, or wings in deep imaginative play, they swing from branches, they dig for clay in the earth, and they collect leaves, snake skins and all sorts of other natural treasures.
They observe all the different insects, bugs, and beetles, and children who were not quite comfortable before, begin to slowly let go of their fear and awaken to the curiosity the nature- based curriculum brings.
We spend endless days at the dock, looking for toads, minnows, and crabs.
Keeping them in a safe container for a little while to observe, to then joyfully release them again.
Our big Grandmother Oak Tree lends us all her strong “arms” to learn how to climb.
After several weeks most children are hanging in the trees like monkeys, resting by laying down like lazy panthers, or leaping from them in the new daily raked piles of leaves.
We make bows and arrows, pretend fish, and build little homes to huddle in.
With our backpacks prepared, we walk the long trail to the lake. Children climb the big rocks and jump down from them, observe turtles, ospreys, fish, and tortoises.
They get dirty!
When they leave for the day they are smiling, tired, and dirty! (So please only play clothes so you can embrace this program without laundry remorse.)
Nature awareness activities, games, and practices foster curiosity, wonder, and exploration, and should be inherent in every childhood and into adulthood. Awareness is something that naturally exists within us, yet is dulled by modern life, which is very much removed from our environment. In order to support a strong connection to the earth, and its elements, we regularly reconnect to our local landscape, observing and tracking wildlife, working with the weather, and identifying and respecting native plants.
For our young ones in the kindergarten, there is still a predictable rhythm of the day – meal times, a circle, story time, games, seasonal songs, sit spots, journaling and gratitude circle.
In the forest, they not only get fresh air, things like imaginative play, creativity, hand-eye coordination, balance, physical strength and mental clarity are all fostered and encouraged.
Being in Florida makes school outside a comfortable reality for most of the year, and our local preserve provides the perfect setting to play among the oak hammock, forest, and mangroves.
The long term gains of learning outside in nature are well researched.
Having held weekly forest days for our grades children over the past decade, we can attest to the benefits in all areas, from social-emotional skills, to academics.
Here is an informative video for you to learn more about the benefits of nature education, and our Forest Kindergarten specifically:
Please contact us for more information for the Forest Kindergarten Program, which is for ages 5 to 7.
The Tender Root Forest Kindergarten is led by Ms Birt