Learning Outside: A Glimpse of Play in Nature

By Susan Reda

On a brisk fall morning, our Forest Kindergartners ventured out from Base Camp to explore in the woods. Once there, several of the children happened upon a fort built by campers during the past summer’s Fantastic Forts camp.  This unexpected find sparked their imagination and one of the children proclaimed “This is the perfect Wolf den!”

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Soon, the youngsters transformed themselves, becoming a pack of wolves and immediately set upon the task of hunting for food. Initially, the small group elected to just send the dads or males out hunting; then upon talking together, they felt that they should all be included, even the one wolf pup.

Stealthily they left their ‘den’ to search for food in a nearby grove of small pine seedlings. They crawled on all fours through the seedlings, howling throughout to communicate to one another where the best food was to be found. They shared their ideas about how best to get the food back to the den for a large feast the pack had planned; they had invited ‘other’ wolves to join them for the evening.

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After some time foraging and gathering, the wolf pack decided that it had become “too much night”. The hunt was ended and they returned to their den with their food (downed pine branches found on the forest floor) and settled down to sleep on the large boulders outside their den.

Only moments passed before the adult wolves awoke again, energized by their sleep and eager to return to the hunt. They left the pup still nestled on his boulder, to allow him to continue resting…

Soon they returned to the den again, howling and talking about the food they had found for the feast.Throughout their play, the children talked with each other about their den, made decisions together and celebrated their work together gathering food for the feast.  When it was time for the ‘pack’ to rejoin the other Forest Kindergartners, they again howled magnificently as they hiked through the forest to return to base camp for morning snack.

Learning Outside’s Forest Kindergarten, like programs for other ages, builds on the understanding that children are experiential learners and that it is in their nature to investigate, examine and work to make sense of the world around them. 

Being outdoors for prolonged periods of time has been shown to encourage children’s imaginative play and to support their creativity and motivation.  In addition, studies confirm the positive impact of outdoor learning on children’s social development, language and vocabulary, hand-eye coordination, balance, physical strength, ability to assess risk, problem solving and critical thinking skills.  It also leads to more cooperation, collaboration and teamwork while promoting children’s independence and confidence.

For more information and to enroll: www.learningoutside.org There are a few opening left for the Winter/Spring Sessions

Contact:  Wendy Banning, Program Director  wendy@learningoutside.org

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