“One student discovered they could climb up the stump and jump off – that was the inspiration,” says Katherine Brown, Director of Little Peaks Preschool in Keene, NY. Other students would venture over and climb up and didn’t quite dare to jump off. One boy tried and tried, desperately wanting to get up on the stump. Katherine and the staff encouraged him to figure it out, and one day he was ready and did it. Katherine explained, “You could just see his pride puffing up. And then there was no stopping him. He really became so much more confident and had an ‘I can do it’ attitude.”
“I really think it’s biological, the connection that we have, when we’re in nature because we’re more part of it,” says Katherine. She sees fewer conflicts outside, with the time to just be in the moment and follow curiosities. Also there are the benefits of gross motor skills, fresh air, seeing the seasons, and learning how to be out and safe and have fun in all kinds of weather.
Here is the structure of Little Peak Preschool’s morning:
- Nature museum: Exploring while everyone arrives
- Circle: Songs and sharing
- Chores: Meaningful tasks that help others, like cutting branches for a backpack tree, picking apple drops, or collecting kindling for community members
- Bathroom: A five gallon bucket sunken into the ground with a hole cut out of the bottom and a toilet seat that snaps on top serves as their toilet. There’s also a bucket for toilet paper, one for garbage, and one for wood chips.
- Hike/Play Time: After voting with a leaf or stick where they want to explore, a student leader is in charge of navigating along with everyone periodically counting the number of kids
- Storytelling/Read aloud
- Quiet spots: Observing and recording on clipboards with blank paper
- Sharing Circle: Sharing noticings from quiet spots
- Closing Song