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What is a Nature Based Curriculum? 

While other preschools may have “outside time”, we spend our day entirely outdoors, and believe that extended time in nature is essential for early childhood development. Baking cakes in the mud kitchen, building castles in the sand, and jumping in puddles are encouraged at Willow Oak! A large portion of the day is spent in open-ended free play on the playground, or in our privately owned two acre forest.

Literacy and language are explored through movement and the changing of the seasons. In autumn we might highlight the letters L and F by collecting and drawing different leaves found throughout our forest. A literacy lesson in the spring may have children creating recipes using vegetables from the garden our children planted.  Each lesson is accompanied by seasonal poems, stories, and songs that are repeated during our circle time fostering a love of language and reading.

Numeracy at Willow Oak is all fun and games… literally! We learn numbers through counting songs and rhymes, movement games, and scavenger hunts around our forest. As children play they observe patterns and shapes in nature, count and sort sticks needed to build a fort, and measure how much water they can carry using just one bucket.

Science lessons are integrated into each and every day as we explore, question, and understand our world. Animals, plants, weather, and the Earth are learned through experience, as lessons are play and inquiry based. Nature Fridays allow children to become natural scientists searching for clues, creating hypotheses, and using the outdoors to find answers to the never ending questions about our fascinating and wonderful planet. 

Art at Willow Oak is not just a subject we study, it is essential to our nature curriculum. From drawing new discoveries in our nature journals each week, to watercolor painting a beautiful and peaceful winter sky, we integrate art into all our subjects. We focus on all forms of artistic expression including handwork (such as knitting & weaving), baking, painting,  drawing, dramatic play, and music. 

Social-Emotional Skills are especially important at a preschool age, as children are beginning to understand how to navigate their emotions and relationships. Communication, empathy, collaboration, and resilience are an essential part of the curriculum, and we do not expect children to enter preschool with a perfect grasp on these skills. Open- ended free play allows the opportunity for children to grow these skills, while teachers act as a gentle guide to navigating the feelings of themselves and others. By practicing a positive discipline philosophy, and offering and modeling alternative choices, children gain confidence in their relationships with peers, navigating conflict, and problem solving.

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