Children are happiest, healthiest, and most open to learning when they are outside interacting with nature.
What is Outdoor Kindergarten?
In practice in Europe since the 1950’s, Outdoor (or Forest) Kindergarten has been steadily growing in popularity in North America. The philosophy at the core of Outdoor Kindergarten is the belief that children are happiest, healthiest, and most open to learning opportunities when they are outside interacting with nature.
Outdoor Kindergarten allows children to:
- think creatively and critically
- hone their observational skills
- gain compassion for the planet and each other
- become more coordinated and agile
- increase their physical and mental stamina
- see the natural environment as the ideal place for exploration, discovery, and inquiry
Outdoor Kindergarten is Early Childhood Education that uses nature as its classroom.
The Kindergarten program at Tawingo College.
Video created by The Laboratory School at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study.
Why Outdoor Kindergarten at Tawingo College?
The incredible 270-acre Tawingo site and our intimate class sizes give us a unique opportunity to provide a cutting-edge outdoor kindergarten program.
Children in the Tawingo College Kindergarten program spend most of every day outside!
The world is changing. Our public education system, while slowly recovering, was modeled on the needs of industrial economies. We are no longer an industrial, manufacturing-based economy. The world does not need children who work quietly without asking questions. The world does need children who:
- notice the world around them with wonder and awe
- are curious and ask “why” and “how”
- are connected to the earth and so take responsibility for it
- when faced with a problem, have the confidence and security in themselves to think, “I can do this”
- care about the solution enough to come at it again and again from different perspectives, and delight in that process of trial and error and experimentation
- ask others for help easily, and share discoveries excitedly
Even more than that, we need awe-filled, curious, grounded, responsible, secure, creative, connected children…and those children need awe-filled, curious, grounded, responsible, secure, creative, connected adults to inspire them.
We believe Outdoor Kindergarten at Tawingo College is the way to protect, foster, nurture, encourage, and celebrate the values, skills, and traits we so desperately need in the next generation.
What about reading and writing? What about math? Will my child be ready for Grade 1?
There’s no reason why early literacy and math skills can’t be taught outdoors. In fact, teachers of every grade and subject are encouraged to use our outdoor “classroom” as much as possible. Nature offers so many more meaningful learning opportunities than the four walls of a classroom. Our students benefit from discovering that learning doesn’t just happen while sitting indoors at a a desk, but literacy and math are all around us and their academic skills are organically honed during play and outdoor discovery.
The push in public schools now is for “authentic” problem-solving, and increased handling of manipulatives. What could be more authentic or intrinsically motivating than the opportunities for counting, measuring, comparing, and sorting that are provided by nature?
How learning is incorporated into Outdoor Kindergarten
But are they going to be outside even in the rain?
What about winter – will they be outside in the cold?
Won’t they be cold?
Students are active during our time outside (and so keeping warm) and have regular “shelter” breaks throughout the day in one of the three tree-houses on site, the teepee, a log cabin with a wood-fire, a tent the children have set up, or our classroom inside the school. These times are both regularly scheduled into each day for things like stories, snacks, and bathroom breaks, and decided upon as we respond to weather, and the children’s needs. We will have a “home-base” in our classroom inside Laughton Hall, but, our practical philosophy will be, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”
What does a regular day look like?
(everything is outdoors unless it says indoors)
|8:30 – 9:15||Arrival, outdoor play, morning circle, snack.|
|9:15 – 10:30||Bathroom, daily walking adventure, story, free exploration.|
|10:30 – 10:45||Recess in Lower Yard with Grade 1 and 2 students.|
|10:45 – 11:00||Indoor snack and bathroom break.|
|11:00 – 12:00||Structured/ planned/ guided activity time.|
|12:00||Morning students go home.|
|12:00 – 12:30||Self-guided exploration/play.|
|12:30 – 1:30||Lunch and recess in Lower Yard with Grades 1 and 2 students.|
|1:30 – 2:15||Indoor bathroom break, fine motor development/ letter formation/ recognition, centres, snack.|
|2:15 – 3:00||French/ Drama/ Music/ Art/ Outdoor Ed./ Phys. Ed.|
|3:00 – 3:30||Self-guided exploration/play.|
|3:30 – 3:55||Clean up jobs, closing circle, recap of the day.|
* Why do they get recess when they’re outside playing all day?
One of the most beautiful things about Tawingo College is that all of the students know each other. The younger children don’t fear the older students. They look to them for help, and they look up to them as role models and highly-desired playmates! This comes from playing together at recess, and we believe it is extremely important that the Kindergarten class have this time to interact with the older students.
Is my child ready?
The Outdoor Kindergarten class at Tawingo College may include:
- 3-year olds (Pre-Kindergarten),
- 4-year olds (Junior Kindergarten), and
- 5-year olds (Senior Kindergarten).
Children who are 3-years old may opt for a half day (8:30am-12:00pm) or a full-day program (8:30am-3:55pm)
Pre-Kindergarten students must be:
- 3 years old by the beginning of the school year (September 6th),
- verbally communicative,
- able to use the bathroom independently,
- able to feed themselves and abide by dining table etiquette,
- able to dress and undress independently (coats, snow pants, etc.).
We will be accepting applications for those children who meet the above requirements on a trial basis. (*PLEASE NOTE: enrollment for Pre-Kindergarten students is limited.) At the end of September, we will assess each student’s degree of success and compatibility with the program and determine if the child should continue for the remainder of the year.
- high quality rubber boots – Bogs are recommended
- runners (no open-toed shoes)
- wool socks – 3 pairs to keep at school (wool/Smartwool socks keep you warm even when wet)
- splash pants for spring
- rain pants with elasticized bottoms
- rain coat
- Tawingo fleece (in place of the formal uniform)
- 3 pairs of mittens to keep at school
- a sun hat to keep at school
- a toque to keep at school
- bug spray
- extra change of clothes (underwear, pants, shirt)
- long underwear set (long sleeve shirt and pants) to be kept at school (not cotton)
- (small) water bottle to keep at school
- small backpack