“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay fields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets: and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best of his education.”
Here at End of the Rainbow, we are set in a large beautiful tree filled canyon. Everyday we here the music of the birds in the trees. Somedays we are visited by hawks that circle high above us. Other days we are visited by fast moving hummingbirds. Whatever the day, each child here experiences life through the beautiful offerings mother nature has given us.
Our outdoor education doesn’t end with the listening of birds and the observing of hawks: It continues with our hands digging up the soft soil in our organic garden. The gentle hold of an egg we found in the chicken coop. The feel of the crisp fresh air on a morning nature walk. At our school, children feel the warmth of wonderment that our natural surroundings have to offer.
Here are some reasons why outdoor education is important…
“Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder. Wonder is important as it a motivator for life long learning….”
“The world of nature is not a scene or even a landscape. Nature for the child is sheer sensory experience. Children judge the natural setting not by its aesthetics, but rather by how they can interact with the environment. Children have a unique, direct and experiential way of knowing the natural world as a place of beauty, mystery and wonder….”
“Children’s special affinity for the natural environment is connected to the child’s development and his or her way of knowing. Plants, together with soil, sand, and water, provide settings that can be manipulated. You can build a trench in the sand and dirt or a rock dam over a stream, but there’s not much you can do to a jungle gym except climb, hang, or fall off.
“Natural elements provide for open-ended play that emphasize unstructured creative exploration with diverse materials. The high levels of complexity and variety nature offers invites longer and more complex play. Because of their interactive properties, plants stimulate discovery, dramatic pretend play, and imagination.
“Plants speak to all of the senses, so it’s not surprising that children are closely attuned to environments with vegetation. Plants, in a pleasant environment with a mix of sun, shade, color, texture, fragrance, and softness of enclosure also encourage a sense of peacefulness.”
“Natural settings offer qualities of openness, diversity, manipulation, exploration, anonymity and wildness. All the manufactured equipment and all the indoor instructional materials produced by the best educators in the world cannot substitute for the primary experience of hands-on engagement with nature.
“They cannot replace the sensory moment where a child’s attention is captured by the phenomena and materials of nature: the dappled sparkle of sunlight through leaves, the sound and motion of plants in the wind, the sight of butterflies or a colony of ants, the imaginative worlds of a square yard of dirt or sand, the endless sensory experience of water, the infinite space in an iris flower.”
~By Randy White & Vicki Stoecklin from “Children’s Outdoor Play & Learning Environments: Returning to Nature”