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The Role of Nature in Supporting Whole Child Development
June 8, 2022
Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.
-John Dewey, 1859-1952, American Psychologist

"In nature, children are agents of their own learning, capable of deep levels of engagement, exploration, and interaction. They have opportunities to discover and acknowledge the strengths and challenges of themselves and others. They also have opportunities to discover their own comfort with physical, intellectual, social, and emotional risk," write Fox, Gessler, Higgins, Meade, Warden and Williams Ridge, in the new Environmental Kinship Guide.

In Growing with Nature, Christine Kiewra, Tina Reeble and Nancy Rosenow note that such growth often comes through more trying moments:  

"Natural outdoor spaces can certainly foster feelings of cooperation among children. It is unrealistic, though, to expect ever-idyllic and conflict-free play. In fact, that is not even a worthy goal. While reducing stress is positive, some conflict between children is inevitable, and can even be beneficial in small amounts so children have opportunities to develop coping skills and learn their own capabilities. Much like a muscle needs exertion to grow, children need doses of manageable stress and challenge to develop to their full potential. Nature-filled outdoor classrooms provide the time, space and calm setting that can support children in responding to experiences with an appropriate range of emotions. Teachers who encourage children to identify and label their feelings help lay the foundation for both a strong sense of self and the growth of empathy."

These upcoming experiences allow individuals and teams to enrich their connections in, with, for and about nature in early childhood:

June 15, 2-3:30 pm Eastern: "Creating an Earth-Friendly and Sustainable Preschool Classroom," ECI webinar with Patty Born Selly.

July 24-27: Nature Explore | Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute at Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Exchange Reflections

In collaboration with Nature Explore, Exchange offers several Exchange Reflections discussion guides specifically focused on connecting young children and those who care for them with nature.

Exchange Reflections are designed to help a team of people meet in-person or live online to think deeply together about a topic using an article and/or video from Exchange magazine as a guide. Included are discussion questions to help guide reflections, as well as a "Making Commitments" idea sheet to help prompt ideas into action.


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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · June 08, 2022
Eugene, OR, United States

Diana, thanks for the update, and for your ongoing commitment to children and those who work with them!

Diana Suskind · June 08, 2022
Stonework Play
Leominster, MA, United States

I have been working with Peter Keto videoing now editing eight classes in a row for two plus days outside and inside at Applewild Preschool -4th Grade at Devens,MA. We are turning the footage into training modules and naming it ‘Stonework Play Though the Ages: 3,4,5,6,7,8,9.’ Stay tune to see child development through working and playing while embracing the five steps of Stonework Play with stones. ( gathering, constructing, rendering, narrating and sharing) See Stoneworkplay.com and on YouTube to get started on your own.

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