Nature School of Fairview
Nature schools and nature preschools are something that I am just discovering and I LOVE the concept! I have started digging in and want to start featuring nature schools in the DFW area. What makes them unique, what kind of activities do they do, what age range do they serve?
On my ExploreMore podcast, a few episodes back, I interview Kristina Holleman who has led a few different nature schools including the current full school on her farm called St. Isidore Academy in Greenville Texas. Listen to her episode here.
The idea of getting kids outside for extended periods of time, letting them explore (more) and learn and appreciate nature seems like one of the best things we can do for our kids. COVID 19 has also forced us to rethink the concept of forcing large groups of kids in small classrooms for long periods of time and expecting them to learn. Kids are born to EXPLORE. I am not an education expert but I know all kids are different, learn at different paces, are interested in different things and NEED to be outside and allowed to explore.
So, I reached out to Fiona with the Nature School of Fairview who can explain this way better than me. Her brand new preschool opens this fall and looks like it will be amazing! I will have her on the podcast soon but in the meantime, I asked her to write me a feature piece about her school for the blog which she did quickly and I LOVE it! Check it out below and stay tuned on the podcast (on your favorite podcast platform) for our new episodes.
What makes Nature school of Fairview unique?
I think the most obvious or crucial answer is that we are a green school. We have 4 acres of heavily wooded, green space, gardens, and fresh air for our students that has a long legacy of being deliberately and specifically cultivated to welcome children of various ages. Kids need nature. And more subtly, nature needs children. Children are like sponges as we know. They are literally absorbing everything from speech to facial movements to hand gestures so they can function in their own cultures. We honor that by letting your little sponges absorb fresh air, the feel of tree bark, the richness and fertility of seeds in dirt, wind, the quality of air, a micro-climate for their senses. Other schools have sensory bins filled with plastic beads, or other artificially gathered materials like rice, or a plastic bin of water, knowing how desperately our children’s senses, our children’s skin, is craving those experiences in order to thrive. But rather than cut them off from Nature, we bring them right to it.
One of the buzz word concepts in modern education or pedagogy is “Differentiated Education.” What is this? Basically, it’s the idea that each student is an individual and the teacher should differentiate this lesson for all learning styles: emotional, intellectual, kinesthetic, social and musical. But what happens in the modern classroom is that is overwhelming, how do you create 10 lesson plans for children who all need to learn in different ways? The answer is: Nature. Nature automatically differentiates to each child. One child might be musical, they’re listening to the wind, the birdsong, they’re getting what they need. Another child might be kinesthetic, they’re digging in the dirt, climbing the tree to read the book in the tree, they’re getting what they need. Another child might be social, they’re walking with their friend, they’re discussing together in a calm way because they have space to do that, they’re getting what they need. Another child might be intrapersonal, they’re better at learning alone. Here they have space. They’re not crammed into a small room all day with 20-30 other people. They can’t learn that way. They’re going to be able to find a quiet spot to focus at this school.
So, one thing Nature has taught us in these past few months is that we, as a human race, find it challenging to be by ourselves. We have not sufficiently cultivated this capacity to be alone. Nature helps us. We get the serotonin we need when we are alone in Nature, we become comfortable in our own skin, it decreases anxiety and depression.
Coronavirus has taught us that cramming 20-30 children in a small room is NOT SAFE. We will create and contract more viruses this way. We NEED distance. This school is inherently safer from that regard. We don’t see our space as just a pretty backdrop for beautiful photos (although it is that, let me assure you) but rather a living, breathing classroom, with its own lessons to teach, inherently differentiated and personal to each child’s destiny and mind.
We are inspired by all the great thinkers in pioneering educating the child …from Maria Montessori to Rudolph Steiner to the great Reggio Emilia. What do all these gifted thinkers have in common? A core understanding that the child is NOT a small adult. A child occupies a fundamentally different headspace and heart space than an adult. We as mothers KNOW this because we can tell our child 10 times to pick up their room and it goes in one ear and out the other, but if we go to the child and start doing it with them, they will happily join in. They are watching our hands, not our lips. They are imitating what we DO, not what we say. These grounds afford children the unique opportunity to DO more and therefore, crucially, to learn more.