Two Nature Kindergarten Kids play in the leaves during class time. (Photo Submitted)

Curious if Nature Kindergarten is right for your child?

School District 27 is excited for its fourth year of registration for Nature Kindergarten.

Due to the support of Scout Island and the Williams Lake Field Naturalists, School District 27 is excited to be getting ready for its fourth year of registration for Nature Kindergarten.

This unique program transitions children into their schooling through a nature immersion Kindergarten year. Nature Kindergarten students are guided through the B.C. curriculum as other students in the province but do it largely outdoors through hands-on and experiential activities.

Movement, exploration and creativity are facilitated, in part, because students are outside. Students in Nature Kindergarten benefit from the support of a full-time Kindergarten teacher and early childhood educator as well as the Scout Island educators.

READ MORE: Outdoor Kindergarten fun

In addition to the many creative and active literacy and numeracy skills students gains through nature-based learning, Nature Kindergarten students are learning to care for each other as a community. Spending time outside has been shown to increase social skills in children as well as improving self-regulation and building positive relationships with their nature community.

A noon hour supervisor comes from Marie Sharpe at lunchtime while students play at Aspen Place, their outdoor classroom. Here they can choose activities like baking in the mud kitchen, building teeter totters or forts out of old boards, digging holes in the dirt pile, inventing imaginary games, writing on the chalkboard or something else the site and their imaginations facilitates.

When indoors students use play-based math and literacy centres, do art, read together and engage in circle time, much like other Kindergarten children. At the end of their school day at 2:50 p.m. students are bussed back to Marie Sharpe, where they can be picked up or transferred to a school bus to take them home. Students are bussed daily between Scout Island and Marie Sharpe, making it easy for their families as every bus in the district will stop at Marie Sharpe.

Being in the basement of the Scout Island Nature House allows students to participate in the Stream to Sea salmon program as well as help staff feed and care for the display animals.

Our Nature Kindergarten, in response to research on the role of thrilling play in healthy child development, facilitates five types of thrilling play. This includes things like climbing trees, riding bicycles and sliding, using tools like hammers and hand saws, playing around water and rough-and-tumble play.

Students are taught how to use tools and managing their safety when engaging in these activities, something that has shown to reduce anxiety, ADHD symptoms and aggressive behaviour. The benefits of rough-and-tumble play especially include improved self-regulation, lower aggression, increased ability to read body language and facial expressions, improved physical fitness, and how to obtain and give consent. As soon as a child indicates they are not happy, students stop to make sure their friend is OK before continuing. Each of these activities is something children choose to engage in at a level they feel comfortable at.

Nature Kindergarten students climb designated trees, balance on fallen logs, climb on high snow banks to jump off, travel at high speeds on sleds, and even explore wild areas where they may have the perception of being lost. The benefits of this kind of thrilling play are that students learn to recognize when something is dangerous for them and where their personal limits are. This recognition of how they can manage their safety is what fosters the resilience which reduces the previously mentioned ailments – ADHD, anxiety and aggression. These activities all happen with teacher supervision, although at times the children might think they aren’t being supervised.

READ MORE: Nature Kindergarten opens eyes to great outdoors

One afternoon a week students take the bus to Marie Sharpe to play on the playground at lunchtime with all the other students of the school and participate in buddy reading, Secwepemc language and culture and use the library. The Strong Start room is used in the afternoons as their classroom. Students experience the larger school and participate in school-wide events, such as pumpkin carving, school assemblies and performances.

Any child who resides in SD 27 and whose fifth birthday falls between Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, is eligible to participate in this program. Class size is limited to 20 students. Students who do not live in the Marie Sharpe catchment area must fill out a School of Choice form.

Details of the registration process will be covered at the information meetings described below.

Parents interested in registering their child in Nature Kindergarten must attend one of two information sessions. They will be held at Scout Island Nature Center at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, and in Marie Sharpe’s Strong Start room on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.

Parents will meet the educators, school principal at this meeting as well as hear a more detailed description of the program and if it is suited to their child.

In order to get an application form, you must attend one of these sessions, they will not be available elsewhere.

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Noemi (from left) Brook, Mya and Luc pose with their nature treasures after a nature walk. (Photo submitted)

Fort builders Xander (from left) Cole and Cooper crouch happily in their handmade fort. (Photo submitted)

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