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  Nature Explore Workshop Series
   Nature Explore Workshop Series

Introduction to the Nature Explore Workshop Series

  • Learn the importance of outdoor experiences and connections to nature for children.
  • Adults need to examine their own feelings about the outdoors and nature and recognize any fears and concerns they might have. This self-reflection helps to realize how personal feelings affect the ability to help children make connections with nature.

The Importance of Visual-Spatial Learning

  • Learn more about visual-spatial thinking and become more aware of its importance in the learning environment.
  • Develop ideas for providing more visual-spatial learning opportunities for children in the built environment, in the natural environment, and through purposeful movement.

Developing Observation Skills: Documentation

  • Children's visual-spatial work contains multiple meanings.
  • Adults need to closely observe children's visual-spatial work in order to find the levels of meaning contained within.
  • To most effectively describe and understand visual-spatial work, adults need to use a visual tool (visual notes). This tool also strengthens the adult's visual-spatial thinking.
  • Keeping records of visual notes helps adults and children's visual-spatial development over time.

Choosing Effective Indoor and Outdoor Materials

  • Careful selection of hands-on materials is important for supporting visual-spatial learning, in both indoor and outdoor environments. Well-planned outdoor environments are ideal places for supporting in-depth hands-on learning
  • It is important for adults to understand the properties of materials children explore.
  • Multiple opportunities for learning can be contained within one material.
  • Adults need to manipulate materials personally in order to better support children's learning.

Indoor Environments that Bring Nature Inside

  • Careful arrangement of children's environments (at school or at home) can lead to increased learning and decreased behavior problems.
  • It is important for adults to understand the research-based guiding principles for setting up children's environments.
  • Careful selection of visual images, especially images from nature, can help decrease children's over-stimulation and aid in their development.
  • Adding non-standard materials (especially materials from nature) to children's indoor environments can enhance learning and strengthen children's positive feelings toward the natural world.

Learning with Nature

  • Many factors in today's world are keeping young children from making positive connections with the natural world.
  • Connecting with the natural world promotes a sense of wonder and is a motivator for future learning, while disconnected from the natural world can lead to a host of behavior problems, especially for children who are innate visual-spatial learners.
  • Visual-spatial activities (such as strengthening observation skills) can help children make positive personal connections with the nature world, while at the same time enhancing a variety of foundational learning skills.
  • Outdoor activities can serve as a basis for learning in many areas (such as science and math).

Using Your Outdoor Classroom

  • Children benefit from using nature as an integral part of daily learning.
  • Well-designed outdoor spaces provide an ideal setting for many learning activities.
  • Learning activities that take place in the natural world can support all children's interest and needs and strengthen skill-development in all academic areas.

Moving to Learn

  • Motor development is an important aspect of neural processing and of the development of thinking and reasoning skills.
  • It is important for children to be given regular opportunities to move in as many ways as possible.
  • Giving children opportunities to engage in purposeful movement helps them on three levels: They learn to understand and gain control of the ways their bodies can moves; they gain knowledge about the world through physical movement; and they gain experience that allows for more meaningful creative and emotional expression.
  • Adults need to plan for ways to include more purposeful movement experiences (kinesthetic learning) in classrooms and homes. (Outdoor classrooms provide a wonDimensionsul venue for movement experiences).

Art and Nature

  • Art experiences can strengthen children's visual-spatial thinking.
  • The Look-Move-Build-Sketch Model can deepen children's artistic expression.
  • Children's art experiences can help them make sense of their own environment and express their knowledge and interpretations of the world around them.